Firefighter: 'This is the first time I went home and cried'
Published 3:53 pm, Sunday, December 16, 2012
Two days after 27 people were fatally shot by a 20-year-old shooter on a rampage, the town of Newtown and the community of Sandy Hook continued to mourn together.
At Trinity Episcopal Church, volunteer firefighters with Newtown Hook & Ladder were preparing to donate teddy bears to children after the Sunday service. People in Providence, R.I. collected more than 2,500 donated teddy bears and drove them to the Newtown firehouse Sunday morning.
Milton Adams, who has been a volunteer for 39 years with the fire company, said "It's an unbelievable outpouring of love."
He was assisted by his son, Josh, and several members of the fire company. Adams is a fifth-generation Newtown resident who was born and raised in Newtown and works for the highway department.
Adams was also a first responder after Friday's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He said he arrived around 9:45 a.m. and declined to comment on what happened there.
"I don't want to say what I saw," he said, adding that he knew several of the families and the horror "is still settling in.
"I have seen some horrendous things in 39 years as a firefighter," Adams said. "This is the first time I went home and cried."
As the father of 3 grown children including a son who is a member of the Marine Corps who is at home visiting now, Adams said he was still struggling to talk to his family about the town's tragedy. "It's going to be tough to recover," he said. "It's just so vast and unbelievable."
On Saturday afternoon at the Demitasse Cafe, Sandy Hook residents Eric and Susan Shanko and their daughter, Gillian, an eighth-grade student who had attended Sandy Hook Elementary School, paused to drink hot chocolate, coffee and eat quiche. They were reading messages and the heartbreaking news on cell phones when they saw an image of the New York Giants football team wearing "S.H.E.S." stickers on their helmets to commemorate the children and adults killed at the school.
"Every five or ten minutes it hits us like another wave," said the father, who wiped away tears. His wife added, "It just breaks my heart."
The Shanko family lives in the upscale Sandy Hook development a few blocks from the shooter's family, the Lanzas. And they expressed a mix of sorrow and anger over the second deadliest mass shooting in American history. The father said, "I'm angry at his (Lanza's) mother and all the lawmakers who are afraid to stand up to the gun lobby. There is no coherent argument to own an assault rifle like that."
The daughter, who wore her cheerleading jacket from her middle school, recalled the horror-filled minutes from within her school Friday. She struggled just to pose the fear of that experience with the warm and beautiful memories from her years at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"It really was family oriented and I had the nicest teachers," Gillian said. "All the kids were so nice and it was that rare school where everyone was together." She remembered the school motto, "Be kind."
The mother and daughter said they did not want Sandy Hook Elementary School ever reopened again. But Eric disagreed and said he thinks it should be used as a school again. The mother said, "I don't want to see that ever reopened. It should be a permanent memorial." The father shook his head and said, "I don't know how the teachers are going to deal with their post-traumatic stress syndrome."
The family wore commemorative ribbons they had worn in blue and gold for Newtown High School colors.
Hundreds of people processed up a hill into the growing memorial in front of the Sandy Hook school sign, where Christmas trees have been decorated with commemorative messages and ornaments and dozens of votive candles, teddy bears and heart-felt notes of condolence have been laid on the ground along with dozens of bouquets of flowers at the base of the school sign, which has now become an iconic memorial tableau.
Among the mourners were four members of the New York City chapter of the Guardian Angels, who wore their red logo nylon jackets and black berets. "We came here to show our respect and to let the community know we are here for them," said Zeek Gavares, a Guardian Angel who lives in the Bronx.
Justice Limardo, a Guardian Angel member also from the Bronx, said "I came to give support for all the loved ones lost."