NEWTOWN, Conn. — I was halfway to Vermont when the calls and texts started coming. I was off that day, driving up from my home in Connecticut to see some college friends. My editors wanted to know how far away I was from Sandy Hook, because there had been a school shooting. I had never heard of Sandy Hook, but soon learned it was in Newtown, which was just about 20 minutes up the road from where I live. I was already two hours into my drive north. They weren’t sure how bad it was yet. But soon we all did.
I arrived in Newtown in the late afternoon on Dec. 14, 2012, and spent that day and the next dozen or so reporting from a community shell-shocked from the massacre that took the lives of 20 children and six adults at the elementary school behind the firehouse. The images here are just some of the hundreds I took with my phone while I was there, shuffling from press briefing to press briefing, makeshift memorial to makeshift memorial, funeral to funeral. Gut punch to gut punch. The therapy dogs were everywhere.
When schools reopened, children arriving on buses waved to the hundreds of reporters, television trucks and camera crews that had descended on Newtown. After the first week following the killings, the crush of media mostly faded — at the request of the families.
“Newtown was a private, quiet place before the shooting,” Sen. Chris Murphy, one of the first lawmakers to arrive at the firehouse that day, recently told me. “And it still is. Newtown is not a place you move to if you want to be showy, if you want to lead a big public life. And so Newtown’s recovery has been private and quiet as well.”
A few years after the shootings, a woman who came across a photo gallery I had posted online sent me an email asking if she could use some of the images for a Powerpoint presentation she was doing about school safety. It was the mother of Josephine Gay, one the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“Hard to say what it meant to stumble upon your photos,” Michelle Gay wrote. “There were so many that were taken of us in horrible moments — but yours capture the dignity and beauty of our community and the initial outpouring of love and support.”
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