One month and a day ago, reporter Lauren and I drove to a part of the country neither of us had really been to before: Connecticut. We didn’t know where we were staying, we didn’t know what we would we be doing and we didn’t know anybody with whom we’d be working.
This was all we knew:
- Our job was to help out a sister paper, The New Haven Register, by doing whatever they asked of us, in the wake of the second-worst school shooting in U.S. history.
- One New Haven editor’s name.
- …I think that’s about it.
We were asked to go, and we went. It was a long, dark drive to New Haven from York, and all I could think about was who, what, where, when. I didn’t think about why, or how. I didn’t dare to. I kept my focus on the road and on my job, and that’s pretty much how the next four days and five nights went.
I already wrote that, upon my return to York, I finally cried. And now I’ve had a month to think and reflect and talk to the caring editors, coworkers, friends and boyfriend that I’m so fortunate to have.
People have asked how I’m doing, and by and large, I’m okay. As I’ve already written, I was in Newtown for only four days, I never set foot inside a funeral (some reporters had to, and I can’t imagine what they might be going through), I met only one person who actually knew a victim. I’m not a parent, and I haven’t yet experienced deep personal grief or loss.
But while I’d rather not dwell on this, I won’t sugarcoat it either: Things are different now. I’m different now. How can they/I not be? When you spend time in such a small, cozy place as Newtown, where the overcast skies match the grief in the air and strangers admit they’ve been crying all day and flower- and candle-laden memorials never leave your sight, it’s hard to dismiss the thoughts and memories that linger in your mind after you leave. It actually feels wrong to do so.
• • •
I’ve so far had neither the heart nor the will to share the pictures I made there, as well as others I made before and since then. I was determined to be a human in my reporting in Newtown, and I’ve since been determined to be a human for my own sake. So, when I’m not at work, I have turned my focus to the mundane: small tasks like avoiding folding the clean laundry and large tasks like tackling a book that’s taken me more than nine years to complete.
Some day — maybe tomorrow, six months from now or whenever I’m ready — I’ll share those pictures from a month ago. In the meantime, I’m working toward normalcy.
Ten or so nights ago, I dreamed about a Newtown that I barely recognized: There were no news vans, the sun was shining and people were smiling.
Every day, I hope that dream will no longer be just a dream.