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Newtown bus driver recalls her children

Updated 10:37 pm, Saturday, December 15, 2012
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NEWTOWN -- Growing up, Marsha Moskowitz loved to watch the buses.

She liked how the drivers opened the door, welcoming people into their lives.

One day in 1999, after two decades working for Connecticut Light & Power, she got her chance to be one: Henceforth, she would drive bus No. 30, making daily trips to and from Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"I did the morning route and afternoon route," she said Saturday, pausing from her daily walk to recall her 13 years and thousands of faces on the job before retiring last June.

Every student got to know Barney, her 10-year-old beagle, whose pictures covered the walls of her bus.

Recently, since she lived in the neighborhood, they'd get to feed him.

* * * *

Moskowitz loves Newtown. She loves its woodsy charm and her dirt road, barely wide enough for two cars. She loves walking Barney and his puppy brother up the road to where the homes are big and the kids are plenty. She never makes it far on her mile loop before a car stops, a window drops, someone says "Hi."

Sometimes, it's a former student. Usually, it's a parent.

Friday, walking Barney and his puppy brother, more sirens screamed than she's heard in her life. She phoned a friend, who has a police scanner, and learned what one of the boys she'd driven a decade ago had done.

He was the sort you remember, she said. Because he was so aloof.

* * * *

Kindergarten always started with nerves. The first day, you get them on the bus, let their parents take their pictures, watched their parents let go enough so their 5 year olds could enter the bigger world.

Before long, they'd be used to seeing Barney, to watching Moskowitz throw treats out the door for neighborhood dogs, to singing and clapping to the Q-98 radio station that played.

By winter, they'd hop on their bus without hesitation. They'd ride to and from the school that had become theirs.

On the last day of school, when Moskowitz brought pig ears for the neighborhood dogs, they'd climb off the bus, matured.

They were ready for first grade.

* * * *

On October 13, 2011, Moskowitz' mother died and a kindergartner visited with her mother to pay the respects of the Jewish Shiva. Moskowitz' daughter, who lives in Florida, watched the girl play with Barney.

Thirteen months later, that daughter in Florida realized that raising a puppy wasn't easy. She sent Oscar, a brown dachshund, up to Newtown.

It'd be nice to introduce that first-grade girl to Oscar, Moskowitz thought.

* * * * *

On Saturday, it was cool and sunny. The dogs were jumping everywhere, barking at and chasing cars.

They'd run in circles, twisting their leashes around Moskowitz, who altered her route to avoid the dozens of TV vans and reporters from all over the world. Last night, she was interviewed on national television.

A car pulled up, a mother lowered the window. There were two girls were inside. The mother asked if Moskowitz was OK.

"Hug the kids for me," Moskowitz said.

The car rolled off and Moskowitz walked up the road, thinking of the girl who'd never meet Oscar and her 19 classmates.

"These kids will never ride the bus again," she said.