That ended up being the theme of our story, more or less. Normalcy, and how the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School are going to regain it as they resume classes, days after what Monroe Town Council Chairwoman Enid Lipeles called the worst thing to ever happen in America.
Monroe has a first selectman in addition to a Town Council. I don’t know what those are. But I also don’t know where Monroe is, other than “next to Newtown.”
Sarah talked to one of the town councilors, the lone Republican, while I was interviewing the first selectman in his office. The councilor, he told her how the municipal government there works. She told me later the first selectman is like a town manager, the town council like a board of selectmen.
So that’s how I’m thinking of them, because that’s what Wilmington and Tewksbury have. Normalcy.
The first selectman in Monroe is named Steve. His older daughter went to Assumption College, played soccer there. I’m the same age as his younger daughter.
He told me this while we were talking in his office, talking about the in-progress move of Sandy Hook Elementary School to Monroe’s Chalk Hill Middle School. He told me the classrooms were being unloaded into moving trucks. One classroom into one truck, so the rooms could be recreated in the new school, for a sense of normalcy.
He gestured to a poster on his wall, to a bookcase next to it. Told me that if that picture were on that wall in Sandy Hook, it would be on that same wall in Chalk Hill. The bookcase, too. Everything. The backpacks that got left behind when they—
And then he choked up, couldn’t finish. Started talking about how he hadn’t choked up with CNN, with any of the networks earlier that day, but had for the first time at tonight’s meeting.
When I looked up from my notebook, he noticed tears in my eyes. He called me out with a smile: “Not you, too!”
“It was the backpacks.”
Look down or something, he said back, because we can’t look at each other. It’ll only be worse.
Then he told me I reminded him of his daughter.
I get the feeling a lot of people are seeing reflections of their children in unfamiliar and unexpected faces this week.
I’m seeing children everywhere, myself.
In the pool at the hotel where our satellite newsroom is set up. In booths in the Panera where Sarah and I filed our story from tonight. In photos of funerals. In my mind’s eye after a media briefing outside the Monroe Police Department, while the fire marshal tells me about crews retrofitting the middle school for use by younger students.
Things you’d never think of. Things these people shouldn’t have to think of. The handrails at Chalk Hill are designed for middle schoolers. The gaps between the railings are too big for the hands of younger kids.
I have this image in my head of tiny hands grasping frantically at the railings, flailing, reaching for the safety and security of something to hold onto. Reaching for normalcy.
I hope all those kids have a bigger, adult-size hand to hold.