Originally Posted by Bruce M. Thomson
This may help you feel just a bit better:
I must confess that Iím glad to be leaving you ó though youíre probably even happier to see me, and other people like me, go. As the week goes on and Christmas gets closer, there will likely be fewer members of my profession driving around your town, down Main St., and through Sandy Hook.
Youíve been incredibly kind. And I would guess that not every one of us has deserved that. But I want you to know that I am very grateful for the patience you displayed when answering my questions, and will always admire the grace with which you handled the terrible events that took place in your pretty town.
I arrived here on Friday night ó hours after a troubled man who carried a scary rifle burst into the elementary school and killed 26 of your neighbours, 20 of them children ó and went straight to the Catholic church.
Hundreds of you were huddled on the lawn. Originally, I thought the service was over, and people were just waiting for friends or whatever, and were going to head home. Wrong. People were staying. And talking. To each other, to members of the clergy ó and to reporters. Tons of reporters. We represented media outlets from around the world. Norway. Spain. Korea, too, I later found out. Canadians, obviously. And from all over the U.S.
And you talked to us. To me. About how you felt about your kids, and how you worried for your friends, and how you hoped your town would eventually be OK. No one was angry at the assailant, not at that point. People were just terribly sad. And even as you cried, and hugged, and sang, only one out of the many people I approached said heíd rather not talk ó and he said that with a polite, sad smile. And then he said to me, ďBut thanks for asking.Ē
I think you wanted to tell your stories, and those of your community, and I believe you did that beautifully.
Iíve never lived in the United States, but Iíve spent a lot of time here. For a couple of years I travelled here almost weekly ó I was covering professional sports for the Star ó and then, when I moved overseas, I worked for an American news organization, with many American colleagues.
I love the U.S., and I love Americans, and I always felt like I knew and understood this place. But here, in Newtown, I was reminded of the differences between our two countries.
Itís not just your gun laws, though those are one obvious difference. Put it this way: If I had gone to Newmarket, Ont. ó or New Westminster, B.C., or pretty much any other Canadian community ó I think things would have been different.
This isnít to say that Canadians arenít just as thoughtful, or as welcoming. But I think weíre more reticent when it comes to talking to the press ó and nowhere is that difference more obvious than when it comes to public officials.
Just look at the remarkable news briefing held by Dr. H. Wayne Carver, your stateís chief medical examiner, on Saturday afternoon. True, there is no prosecution in this case so he doesnít have to be careful about what he says, but I donít think thereís any way any Canadian official would get up and speak as frankly as he did.
He said how many times the victims he saw had been shot. He described what the bullets did to their flesh. He gave the kind of detail that sometimes we donít even hear spoken in courtrooms. I was astonished.
And then, I have to confess, I was also taken aback Sunday afternoon when I heard a smart, pretty 21-year-old girl ó who was setting up to take donations for the families in your town ó make the ďguns donít kill people, people kill peopleĒ argument.
Iím not naive, but I was surprised when she and her two friends all said, sure, they know people with guns. I donít think I know anyone with a gun (cops notwithstanding). Look around, one of them said to me, waving her arm. Newtown is surrounded by woods. People hunt. Of course they have guns.
Zoe told me her boyfriendís mom and her best friendís mom were in Sandy Hook Elementary when the shooting took place. So I thought she might now think that people donít need weapons.
ďSome people are saying this is about gun control,Ē she said. ďI donít believe that. This is about one sick person.
ďI donít forgive him,Ē she said. ďI really donít, at all.Ē
That was about the only anger I heard during the days I spent in your town. Mostly, people talked about love.
I havenít cried yet. Iíve been close, but when youíre working, you just kind of keep on going. Iíve tried not to look too closely at the pictures of the little girls ó they remind me too much of people who are important to me. And I grew up surrounded by amazing women who are teachers.
So I am glad to be leaving you. Because I get to go home and see those people. Iíll get to hug them on Christmas Eve, and Iíll get to laugh with my girlfriends, and sit at a favourite bar, and leave some of what I heard and saw in Newtown behind.
I wonít forget you, though. And when I stop and remember, thatís probably when Iíll cry.