NEWTOWN, Conn. (CBS) — It’s remarkable that just an hour’s drive from one of the largest cities in the world, Newtown has maintained a “small town” feel.
Instead of Starbucks, there’s a General Store which serves as a central meeting place.
Residents come to talk, not Tweet or text, about current events or gossip in town.
But since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the conversations here are more therapy than “coffee talk.”
Residents are sharing, caring and crying for each other. They discover what connections they may have to the victims or survivors.
Twenty children and six adults died at the school and most people in town are affected directly or indirectly.
Since the tragedy, this small town has grown big. News organizations from around the world have come to cover this horrible story. It’s the result of being so close to New York City, where most national and international media have a permanent presence.
But the number of reporters is being matched by scores of mourners. Visitors are traveling long distances to simply leave flowers, light a candle and say a prayer at one of the many memorials growing around town.
Mike Tadry came to Newtown Monday morning from his home in Newburgh, New York, 50 miles away, bringing crosses he carved specifically for the victims’ families.
It was a gift meant to comfort others, but it also comforted himself.
Tadry’s teenage daughter was killed in a car crash just last month. With his own heartbreak still fresh, Mike forged these crosses. It was comfort given and comfort received.
The most eloquent person I’ve interviewed on this story was a Newtown High School senior named P.J. Hickey. He spoke with pride about his hometown and resolve that he will always feel safe here no matter what happened. The young people of Newtown sound more wise and mature than they ever should.
“We can’t do this alone.” P.J. said. “We really just need to come together and have the love in our town, try and uplift the families that were destroyed by this.”
At the end of this week, I will leave Newtown and return to Boston. The urgency and immediacy of the story will be over. But the heartbreak in Newtown may never heal. Their lives will never be the same.
God Bless Newtown.
You can follow Sera on Twitter @sercongi.