The school shooting that few remember

Feb 26, 2013 20:44 UTC

Newtown, Conn. ‑ What do you know about Chardon, Ohio? I have spent the past week putting this question to my friends and neighbors in Newtown, the place I have called home, off and on, since 1968. I asked my contacts, from the whip-smart hedge fund manager and graduate of Yale Law School to the big-hearted leader of a philanthropic foundation. Not one had heard of Chardon.

Shamefully, neither had I until two weeks ago, when I stumbled across a card sent to the Sandy Hook Elementary School. My 12-year-old son and I were combing through a dozen boxes, from among the tens of thousands of cards and letters that have arrived at our town hall. We were looking for artwork we could use to decorate the office walls of Sandy Hook Promise, the nonprofit I co-founded with fellow citizens to help our community heal and eventually find its voice on matters related to eliminating gun violence

The card is simple – one page of white paper, folded and adorned with a valentine on the front. Inside, another heart, with a message in red marker: “Stay Strong + Stay United. In Chardon We Are One Heartbeat.” At first glance, there was nothing that distinguished this letter from the millions of others carrying similarly lovely sentiments. That was until I read the blue cursive writing inside.

“Ten months after our school shooting at Chardon High School on Feb. 27, 2012, we are still healing and supporting each other. We still have the red ribbons tied around trees, up on houses and various places in town.” Gutted and embarrassed that Chardon had not registered in the least, I turned to the Internet.

It turns out that on that day in the school cafeteria, 17-year-old T.J. Lane fired 10 shots from a .22-caliber semiautomatic Ruger handgun, a weapon he obtained from his uncle’s home the night before. Demetrius Hewlin, 16; Daniel Parmentor, 16; and Russell King, 17, died from their wounds. Three other teenagers were injured. (On Tuesday, Lane pleaded guilty to multiple homicide charges.)

Newtown’s community struggles to understand one of its own

Dec 17, 2012 14:08 UTC

This column was originally published in the Wall Street Journal.

NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT – The word “community” is overused. It is even the title of a television sitcom. But in the context of Newtown – the Connecticut town of 27,000 that I’ve known as home since 1969 – it is authentic. Yet from within our midst came Adam Lanza, now a murderer of 20 innocent local children, six of their dedicated teachers, and his own mother.

Today the world is focused on our heretofore-bucolic slice of America. As the international media’s satellite dishes sprout and their choppers descend to dissect the shooting and the shooter, Newtown is mostly presented as either an affluent suburb of New York or a picture-perfect New England hamlet with old-timey colonial houses, horse farms and a historic Main Street.

Neither characterization does it justice. To live here is to know why, after two decades of global wandering, I returned eight years ago to raise my family.