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Newtown area towns overflow their boundaries

Updated 9:58 pm, Sunday, December 23, 2012

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  • A sign along Route 302 in Bethel shows how the region is affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy. Photographed Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. Photo: Michael Duffy / The News-Times
    A sign along Route 302 in Bethel shows how the region is affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy. Photographed Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. Photo: Michael Duffy

 

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The tragedy in Newtown on Dec. 14 reinforces for some how closely the towns of Fairfield County are intertwined.

The shock and sadness of the horrific shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six adults are acutely felt by residents of the surrounding area because of their strong connections with each other.

"They are seamless boundaries," said Nancy Sudik, executive director of the Danbury Music Centre. "People's love and affection is pouring out to everybody."

Vigils held in towns over the past week, green ribbons worn by citizens and signs like Bethel's declaration of support demonstrate the shared compassion for Newtown.

One example was a road race Saturday that benefitted the Sandy Hook Elementary School families.

The race was organized by the peers of triathlete Christopher McDonnell from Newtown, who lost his 7-year-old daughter, Grace, in the shooting.

"We're all like a community, a tight-knit community," said Greg Pelican, owner of Bethel Cycle, about the runners, cyclists and triathletes who associate through the Bethel Cycle Club. "We are friends and get together and help each other."

More than 200 runners from across the area took part in the 12-mile race, including 10 from his club. It raised $5,000, though it was put together in only 24 hours, he said.

The route started in the center of Roxbury and traveled along the Housatonic into the center of Sandy Hook.

"At Grace's service, they gave us bracelets with Grace's name in her favorite color, purple," Pelican said. "I was running and when I reached Sandy Hook, I looked down at the bracelet and was thinking of her. It was pretty moving."

The Brookfield Theater for the Arts brings high school and college students from across the area together for plays, one of the few area-wide theatrical programs available for young people.

On Thursday, the theater held a benefit for the Sandy Hook families and plans another one in January, according to the president and artistic director, Michael Burnett.

"People came together from all over to take part Thursday," Burnett said. "It becomes a family, especially when the kids come together. That generation does it better than the adults, I think. It's very seamless."

In the same way, Danbury Music Centre is a hub of sorts, bringing together people for programs that individual towns couldn't support, she said.

For instance, the center's Nutcracker Ballet production has children from 30 towns, and musicians in the Danbury Symphony Orchestra and singers in the choral group come from across the area, too, Sudik said.

The educational community overlaps in so many ways across area towns that the connections abound.

For example, Danbury High School teacher Cindy NeJame said she had taught Newtown substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau, who was killed Dec. 14. Also, NeJame's son, Devin, and Rousseau were working together at Starbucks.

NeJame also taught with Dawn Hochsprung, the Sandy Hook principal killed in the shooting, and was mentored by Hochsprung's husband, George, who still teaches in Danbury.

"Some of our students had just been to Newtown High School days before the shooting -- the multicultural class and Newtown high students had been to Danbury," NeJame said.

"There are differences between them that are cultural, but there are also fundamental, shared foundations."

eileenf@newstimes.com; 203-731-3333