The Longest Day

I’ve lived in Sandy Hook/Newtown almost half my life. If you’ve read this blog, you know just how deep an affection I hold for my town. It’s breathtaking; even twenty years later, it’s beauty moves me. We’d originally moved to Connecticut for business, and could’ve lived anywhere.  Coming to Newtown, with its picturesque scenery, structures bursting with character, and majestic flagpole anchoring our Main Street, we knew Newtown was where we wanted to settle.  My beloved town’s the only home my child’s ever known, where everyone knows everyone else. Businesses call patrons by first names; you can’t go to the store without seeing someone you know. Our community’s very active. It’s the perfect place to raise a family, a storybook setting. Calling Newtown “close-knit” falls short…the community’s more than that; it’s a big family. When evil descended upon us, he swooped right into our town’s very heartbeat…one of our beloved schools.


It was a sunny, beautiful Friday, after a week of dreary weather, and started out as a regular day.  My daughter had been ill the first four days that week with a stomach bug. Her first day back, I had a rather large to-do list, with Christmas being right ‘round the corner.  Around 10:00 am, the call came that would signal life in Newtown would never be the same; a message from our Superintendent.  She indicated that due to a shooting at one of our schools, all schools in the district were on lock-down.  Then the call ended.  We weren’t told which school was in peril.

Every Newtown parent felt the searing blade of horror, fear, and panic. My heart skipped a beat, my world spinning.  I quickly dialed my husband and turned on the t.v.  Surfing channels, I found nothing.  Since we have a satellite dish and live closer to New York than Hartford, I don’t get “local” channels. I phoned a neighbor, asking her to turn on her t.v. to see if she could find out which school was in trouble.  The mom of my daughter’s best friend called to see if I knew.  She and I would talk throughout the day, sobbing, there for one another. No one answered the phone at our school. They can’t during lock-down.

For the longest, agonizing time, we didn’t know which school was affected. Finally sometime before 11:00, we learned it was Sandy Hook Elementary… I can’t even begin to imagine what horror it was for those parents.

The rest of the day was a blur of fear, panic, disbelief.  My brother, a policeman in his thirtieth year on the force in another state, advised me not to go to my daughter’s school, as long as hers wasn’t involved. Conflicting reports abounded.  At first we thought it was one teacher hurt with a wound through the foot.  We hoped that would be all. Sandy Hook School parents were in a parent’s worst nightmare, one no one should have to ever face. There were (false) reports of a second shooter loose.  I desperately worried about my daughter at her school, and for all the sweet, innocent children at Sandy Hook Elementary.  I thought of those working there, some I know personally, all moms themselves, and for the sweet kids I’ve met in my knitting classes.  I wanted time to stop…to rewind to before 9:30.

Phone calls from everywhere rang my cell and home.  My email box flooded, and farmgirls from all over the United States posted messages on the forum. While I was alone at home anxious, waiting for news, my husband trying to get home from work, I felt comfort knowing so many were praying for us.

I was one of the lucky ones.  My baby’s school was unaffected, and she came home.  Waiting for that bus to come was agony. When she finally arrived, I felt immense joy. I ran to hug her, couldn’t judge my distance for the tears and running mascara, and literally knocked us both flat to the ground.  In typical tween fashion, she informed me she was just fine, but I’d just severely embarrassed her in front of the whole bus. I didn’t care and hugged her again. Someday, when she’s a mommy, she’ll understand.

I’ve held her close, and hugged her often.  Cookies for breakfast?!  Here, have two.

The night before the incident, at a restaurant, another table was loudly discussing how “nowhere’s safe.”  Audrey became concerned, and I told her not to worry, ours is a safe area. There was some truth to that statement. Up until that day, our typical police blotter consisted of cars colliding with deer and the occasional bashed mailbox.  The sad truth is what happened to us could’ve happened anywhere.  From the minute our babies are born, our instincts are to protect them, but bad things can and do happen in life.  Each day we have, every breath’s a blessing.

My heart aches for those whose babies didn’t come home, and for the families of our great teachers and staff who died so bravely, fiercely protecting their students. I can’t fathom the depth of their grief. The world’s feeling our pain, but as residents, whose friends, family and neighbors were involved, our pain is especially great.  Over a week later, I still feel like the wind’s been knocked right out of me.  My daughter’s hurting, as she realized one of the teachers lost was a beloved substitute she’d had often last year, “Miss R.”. One of the children is the baby sister of a former knitting student…my heart literally breaks thinking about this beautiful family.

In the midst of a horrid, despicable act of pure evil, a sea of love poured in to Newtown, and remains.  Memorials are everywhere.  Our town’s filled with strangers, coming to pay their respects and help. Media’s been in town from all over the world. We’ve seen them weeping with us. There’s messages to our townspeople from everywhere…we hear you…we thank you.

When our town was visited by the President, our clergy from all faiths said what was in all our hearts.  I was so proud to be an American, and never, ever more proud to live in Newtown!  I love my town and her people. I’m proud of our teachers, our police, our fire department, our leaders.   Our residents are supporting one another with so much love.  As hard as it is to believe, we will somehow get through this…together.

We are Newtown.

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  1. Debbie jacob says:

    Thanks for sharing this Nicole, it is still so sad every time I read or hear anything about the tragedy. It is great to hear about the acts of kindness. I am so happy your baby was ok I just couldn’t imagine. I remember when we found out Mia was allergic to fire ants and the traumatic experience I had rushing to the ER to meet her. When I saw her I didn’t recognize she was so swollen. I wept for several days after that just thanking God she was ok and what could of happened. Ugh all you can do is Thank God she is still with you and enjoy every second which I’m sure you already do.

    Thank you Debbie.  This was a difficult blog to write, but I felt compelled to.  I am holding my baby tighter and longer every day since that fateful Friday.

    On another note, I am emailing you directly, as Mia and I share something in common.  I, too, grew up with a life-threatening allergy to fire ants! Talk to you soon, Hugs, Nicole

  2. julie says:

    There are no words, only prayers through my tears.

  3. Karin Thomas says:

    Nicole, your town and all it’s people have been on my mind and in my prayers since last Friday. My heart is aching and I keep finding myself in tears. Like you I can’t even begin to fathom the grief and devastation everyone is feeling over the loss of all these precious angels. I’ll continue to pray for healing and peace for all of you.
    Karin

    Thank you, and much love. -Nicole

  4. Laurie Dimino says:

    Nicole,
    Thank you for the personal insight and heartfelt words. As you know, we continue to hold your entire town close in prayer. Sending you love and support and strength to face each day. The whole world is here for you my dear sister.

    Laurie, you have been so wonderful. Your email and card in the mail brought such comfort; it’s truly a blessing to have the network of farmgirls. Thank you again. Farmgirls hugs, Nicole

  5. Nicole, I really think you handled this blog…the best of any thing I have read or seen on this subject.  You just get better every week. Dad

    Thank you so much, Dad.  Love you.  -Nicole

  6. Adrienne says:

    I live on the left coast but you and the children and everyone in Newtown were in our hearts and minds at the synagogue Saturday when we sent healing prayers your way. I hope all of you can have the strength you need to carry on. Bless all of you.

    Thank you, Adrienne.  It is still hard to believe that something like this happened at all, let alone in our town, in that sweet little school.  The good that has come out of this has been the way everyone has come together. There is kindness everywhere. My daughter and several of her close friends expressed how they all felt very scared and very stressed over it all.  It was overwhelming, for adults, but also for our kids.  There’s been lots of town activities geared towards our children, to help them smile.  It’s been therapeutic for us parents, too.  And, there was a special toy day where all the toys donated to our town were passed out to all the town children.  It was so amazing.  My little girl said to her friends, "Look, there’s so many people that care about us!"  I told her that for every one "bad" person, there are millions of good ones.   Hugs, Nicole

  7. Bonnie says:

    Dear Nicole, I think your Dad said it best – of everything I have read concerning that horrible event, you gave us such personal insight that no one else has. Thank you for that and I am so glad that your daughter was not in that building. What a blessing for you. I think it might have affected the attitude of many at this Christmas time. Perhaps they were more aware that things are not what make up the holiday. It’s family, friends and the giving of time and self that matters. Again, thank you. I have never responded to your blogs before, although I read and enjoy them. God be with you and your town through this healing process.

    Dear Bonnie, Thank you so very much.  We just stopped by one of the memorials in town on our way to the post office.  We just couldn’t walk in there before now.  It was amazing…inside the tent are mounds of stuffed animals, poems and drawings from schoolchildren from all over, and volunteers from other towns "manning" the memorial, offering hugs to others.  There were flowers someone all the way from France had donated. We couldn’t go in it until now.  There has been so much kindness in so many forms from all over the world towards all residents of our town. Blessings to you  -Nicole

  8. bonnie ellis says:

    Nicole: My tears for you and others near that disaster are wet even now. Love is the only thing that will overcome evil. Let me join you and everyone who mourn for the children, the parents and the teachers and the police and firemen who were there on that awful day. Bless you all. Love Bonnie Ellis

    Hugs from me to you, Bonnie.

  9. Marilyn says:

    Nicole, thank you for sharing your blog with us. I work at a prison in North Carolina and even the inmates are appalled at the actions of the one who committed this atrocity. I have seen mentally ill inmates over the past 31 years and it is indeed a tragedy that when someone who is "mentally ill" with whatever diagnosis, they do not receive treatment. However, I know that even those people that I have observed over the many years would find this an atrocious act. Thank you for letting us know from a citizens standpoint. Your teachers are an example of true love and devotion to their students. Most citizens who do not work in education or the prison systems do not realize the danger that is present for the employees and the children and other prisoners from the mentally ill. I find it hard to justify this type of action as "mental illness" but I believe that God will wrap his arms around your citizens and help to ease the pain of the lost. God Bless Newtown.

    Marilyn, thank you.  I have a hard time thinking about the teachers… I just want (and do) cry.  Pure love and selflessness.  I truly believe any of our teachers here would have done the same thing.  Also, the firefighters and EMT’s who were first on the scene are so brave.  Most do not realize that here they are volunteers, and they put their lives on the line every time they get a call.  I’m praying for them everyday.  Thank you for sharing with me, Marilyn.  Hugs, Nicole

  10. Holly Kamal says:

    I can not imagine the horror that all residents of Newtown have gone through.Your post honored all victims with respect and dignity.I had a really hard time. Thank you for your compassion and caring nature.My prayers will continue for all the Newtown residents (especially the victims).

    Thank you, Holly.  -Nicole

  11. Valerie O'Sullivan says:

    Dear Nicole,
    I am truly grateful not to see a Newtown Resident sobbing in any of your photos, as I am sure that I have been ungraciously photographed in my time of grieving. (weakness..by abundance ) WE are Newtown Strong and can get through this, with the assistance of trained therapists, amazing clergy and each other. (national and international community) We made Christmas happen….even though we came up short on presents, burnt cookies, lost sleep and forgot what we where doing most of the time.
    Dec. 14th was one of the worst days of my life as I was unsure if my son’s cousin and best friend was going to come home alive. I did 80 miles on the highway and ran 1/4 of a mile to find out that his mother, one of my best friend’s and love of my life, was one of the lucky ones. She was able to bring her son home and I was unable to go to her due to the traffic. I recalled the terror of waiting to find out if my father was going to come home on 9/11. He worked in the trade center. The radio warnings of possible gunmen at large and the sounds of the helicopters, prompted me to leave.
    I am so thankful that we did not have to bury another family member this year. I am so thankful that our national and international community helped me realize that our children needed Christmas more than anything and were able to face this horror and uncertainty with an army of teddy bears and stuffed animals.
    I realize that I am in a spiritual winter and struggle with anger, but acknowledge and appreciate that we belong to a very spiritual community and will eventually accept this reality.
    I am truly grateful to so many that that helped our community withstand this unspeakable evil that has changed us forever. My belief that things will come closer to being healed when our Sandy Hook Children will be educated on Newtown soil. I am grateful that the neighboring town of Monroe offered us a school so that our children will not be separated. I have held my children closer and take less for granted.
    Loved your Blog !
    I am so looking forward to 2013.
    Thank You,
    Valerie

  12. MaryJane says:

    Dearest Sweet Nicole, I was hoping you’d find the words. Thank you for being endlessly wise and loving. Love to your hubby and daughter … and your Dad!

    Thank you so much, MaryJane!   I found so much love and strength in all my farmgirl sisters! Big Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  13. Nicole Christensen says:

    Hi Everyone,

    Thank you to everyone for the love and for all that has been done for our community. There have been amazing acts of kindness in Newtown from all over. Many people have asked me where and how help to Newtown can be mailed, and here is what I found:

    There are quite a few donation funds set up, some for individual families. There is one set up where all donations will go to where help is needed, for the survivors, the families of the lost, and anyone in the Sandy Hook/Newtown community who needs help. It is through a local bank, and is being aided by the United Way, although United Way is taking no admin costs. Any donations sent to them are tax deductible, and those donating will be receiving a receipt for their taxes. That address is:

    Sandy Hook School Support Fund
    c/o Newtown Savings Bank
    39 Main Street
    Newtown, CT 06470

    For drawings from children, or cards, etc., those can be sent to:

    Messages of Condolence for Newtown
    PO Box 3700
    Newtown, CT 06470

    Much love, Nicole

  14. AJ says:

    I was so saddened to hear about this happening in what seems like such a quiet, peaceful town. All of you are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Many thanks and blessings to you, AJ. -Nicole

  15. kaari meng says:

    Dear Nicole…

    I found you through MaryJane and Just wanted to send you some love from California…if you are in need of some fabric, to keep your hands and mind busy…please let me know. I would love to donate fabric to Newtown for quilts for each family. If this is something you would like me to organize, please let me know. I know it might not be the right time yet, but I think each family could probably use a quilt to keep them warm in the coming months.

    Merci-
    Kaari

    Kaari, What a beautiful idea!  I will email you directly. 

    Nicole

  16. Vicki says:

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you all, in this very difficult time.

  17. Barbara says:

    Hello Nicole. I have never seen your blog before. I did a google search for Mary Janes Farm and stumbled across this accidentally. I am impressed with your compassion, insight and the way you were able to humanize this tragedy and give us a sense of understanding and love. I will continue to watch your blog. I send you blessings and love. I cannot imagine the horror. How does one shield their child from this? the long-term effects? I cannot imagine. (and especially when you thought it was the perfect American town with innocence and Norman Rockwell charm). Wishing you PEACE at this difficult time.

    Hi Barbara,

    Thank you for your kind words.  I’m not sure anyone, even professionals, could answer the other questions you ask about, such as how to shield a child or the long-term effects.  What I am telling my daughter, though, is to look at all the love and kindness that has come out of this horrible act.  For one bad person, there are a million good ones.  She did get comfort from that, and seems to feel some better. Among my friends here, all moms, we all seem to be having a harder time than our children. We can’t shield them completely, as much as we all want to. Back when my daughter started kindergarten, I was taken aback at the "lock-down drills" our schools do.  Now I am thankful that they have that in place.

    Thank you for reading and commenting, and I hope you will "visit me again!  -Nicole

  18. Brenda says:

    so sad what happened there are no words to say that can help. yes you were a blessed one. it is good that the other parents have such a loving town to help them. Prayers to you and your town. And prayers no others will have to go through this sad thing is someone will.

    Thank you, Brenda. -Nicole

  19. susan says:

    I have read your column for awhile now and always enjoy your insights into your life and community.My heart bled when I heard of the horror that affected your community.I live across the continent in another country but please know that we all feel your pain and send prayers for healing and to remember that there is kindness and love everywhere and we are sending it your way.Prayers for all your little angels.

    Dear Susan, thank you.  It has been surreal having our little community seen all over the world, but I know we all have found comfort in all the prayers and wishes.  Wishing you the best in the New Year. -Nicole

  20. Debbie says:

    Dear Nicole,
    Just checking in with you today on New Years Eve. Wishing your family and community many continued blessings and healing in 2013.
    Much love and huge hugs!
    Deb ( your blogging sis Beach Farmgirl Blogger )

    Hi Deb!

    Thank you!  We ushered the New Year in quietly at home with two other families of young children here in town.  Today (January 3rd) the Sandy Hook students go back to school, at another location, and I have noticed much of the media have left our town.  My heart is with the Sandy Hook parents today as they send their babies back to school. 

    May everyone have a Happy, peaceful New Year!  Much love, Nicole

  21. Cheryl Simon says:

    Nicole,
    Thank you for writing about the tragedy in Newtown. I read many of the blogs on Mary Jane’s farm website and in the magazine. I want you to know that my church community, Christ the King Catholic Church, here in Detroit, Michigan are praying for the children and families in Newtown (and all over the world) who have been affected by violence. Peace and blessings,
    Cheryl

    Thank you, Cheryl!  -Nicole

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