Just two weeks after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, the elaborate memorials that drew hundreds of mourners from around the country came down.
Gone were the 26 Christmas trees — one for each victim — that lined the road leading to the Sandy Hook firehouse, where parents learned the fates of their children. The wooden angels staked in a hillside, where many stopped to pray, were pulled from the ground. The bouquets of flowers were picked up, the candles collected. Town officials said it would all be processed into “sacred soil,” perhaps to put at the site of a permanent memorial.
Residents of Newtown had bid farewell to 20 of their children and six more of their neighbors, and sought a sense of normalcy.
Yet nearly a year after the massacre, even after the school itself has been demolished, they struggle to make sense of what they saw and heard last Dec. 14 and in the days that followed. The images, they say, are seared into their memories, and although the physical memorials are gone, they see them every day.
It could be putting a daughter on the school bus, hoping she will return that afternoon. Or picking up a son at school and seeing a police officer in the lobby, knowing why he’s there.