December 14th, 2012. The last day of school for our kids before our big move to our new home in Parker, CO. We had bought our house in October of 2012 and we were very excited about moving to Colorado. I had already made the move two weeks before to start painting the house and to put our floors in before the whole family moved. The rest of the family was to fly out on Saturday, December 15th, 2012 and I was looking forward to picking them up from the airport that next day to show them our new house and all the work that I had done.
8:05 am Dec 14th. I return to my desk from a morning business meeting. I pick up my phone and I see a pop-up from USA Today that says “Shooting at Newtown School!”, right below that is a text message from my wife that says, “call me right away!” My stomach turned but I never thought my own children were involved as I thought this had to be at the High School.
I call my wife right away and find out that the shooting was indeed at their school and my kids were very involved in what happened on that day. My 1st grade son witnessed the shootings of his teacher and classmates and escaped only by running when the gunmen reloaded the gun. My daughter was across the hall locked in a closet hearing the nosies of gunfire, glass breaking, bad words by those who were entering the building. Eventually, she was lead out the front of the school where she saw inside the classrooms where the events unfolded. My older twins who were at Reed intermediate school were on lockdown for 5 hours. A lockdown should have never occurred there, only a lockout. They sat in the dark unable to leave the classroom aware of what was going on at Sandy Hook worrying about their siblings.
Without hesitation, I decided that I needed to fly back to CT and be with my family. It was an extremely long flight, filled with a lot of anxiety and concern for my family. I hated not being there for them but knew everyone was physically safe. I arrived at the airport that night and was picked up by my wife and two of my kids. The other two didn’t want to take the long drive to the airport. My youngest was in the car and I couldn’t wait to see him. I gave him a hug and the first thing he said to me was, “that was a murdering day!” Yuck, how do you answer that? I didn’t know quite what to say and knew that we were about to tell him that his best friends had died that day. It was a miserable night hearing his stories, my other kids stories, my wife’s own stories. We had news helicopters flying over our house all night and news people trying to talk to us, we were only a block from the school. I felt trapped and couldn’t wait to get out of there and back to Parker.
We did make it back to Parker the next day and it felt good to be in our new home together. We all slept in the same room for many nights after that day. It took a long time for the kids to return to sleeping in their own rooms. Some still don’t start out sleeping in their own room. The next few weeks seemed like we were in someone else’s story. This couldn’t be our story, this only happens to other people. We were only 10 days away from our favorite holiday and we couldn’t get motivated to decorate, wrap presents, or buy a tree. Just over a year later I can say I hardly remember anything about that Christmas. The only thing I remember doing was going out to buy a tree with the kids a few days before Christmas. There wasn’t much to choose from and quite frankly it was a sad looking tree, I guess it fit the mood.
I had spent my flight back to CT searching for a counselor for our family. I scheduled an appointment for that first week. Our first appointment was just crying and sharing stories. It seemed like our counselors were as shocked by what we were telling them as we were by what we were saying. Oh boy this was going to be a long year, little did we know just how long it would be and how difficult of a journey this is.
In the next blog I will talk about how this journey lead us to A Sandy Hook Columbine Cooperative.