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When 'Where are you From?' Becomes a Loaded Question

When the answer to 'Where are you from?' is Newtown

Given that I tend to enjoy skiing apart from my more advanced family and friends, I spent a fair amount of time over our recent vacation riding chair lifts and grabbing lunch alongside strangers.  Consequently, I was asked numerous times where I lived.  The following are the initial replies I received after answering the question:

  • I’m so sorry. (Three times)
  • Oh my God!! (Once)
  • Oh no. (Twice)

You see, I live in Newtown, CT.  That was all that needed to be said.

On the last of our five days, a friend and fellow Newtowner traveling with us overheard me respond to an affable fellow in the lodge with a different answer.  This time I simply replied that I was from Connecticut.

By that point in the trip I had had enough of the inevitable comments and follow-up questions. “Did you know anyone? “What is it like there now?” ”This must be so hard.”

 A group of us had come to Vermont to “breathe” for a few days and a number of “head clearing” lift rides and calming cups of hot chocolate had already been tainted by difficult conversation with inquiring strangers.

Later, at the house we were sharing, my friend remarked that he had mixed feelings when he heard me omit the name of our town.  While understanding my choice at the moment, he feared our becoming timid over this atrocity. While not wanting to wear it as a badge, he nonetheless wished to embrace our special town regardless of the resulting reactions.

He’s right, of course; for many reasons but primarily for this:

Since December 14th, something extraordinary, something distinctive, something long lasting has begun to emerge from this heartbreak.  While we Newtowners may always be well-known for this event, I suspect we will also come to be recognized as the months and years progress for something much more.  It’s in the air. People are banding together with open minds and open hearts.  They are generating ideas, expressing conviction and turning feelings into action.

Maybe the dialogue on the slopes, in the lodges, all over the country will someday go something like this:

“Where are you from?”

“Newtown, CT.”

“Cool.  It’s pretty impressive what was accomplished after that shooting.  Your town is an inspiration.” 

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Andrea Schear,LCSW January 07, 2013 at 05:02 AM
I am a Child/Family therapist and I practiced in Newtown for 6 years several years ago. I had the privilege of volunteering my time in Sandy Hook a few days after the tragedy occurred. It was one of the most Amazing experiences I have ever had! The families were so united so desperately wanting to make sure that they were doing the right things to enable their partners and children to heal so much compassion, sensitivity and courage I witnessed! As I asked the children who were in the school and had survived the shooting to draw their feelings and worries their responses were priceless and revealing ~ their intense empathy and bold frankness despite their fears. The experience is one that I will always Treasure ! The caliber of adults and children I saw were stellar ! Even though I now have a practice an hour away, I eagerly look forward to volunteering in Sandy Hook as the days pass by and the realities sink in. A privilege Andrea
Kathy January 08, 2013 at 03:23 PM
Suzy, I know what you mean. I'm a crafter and I'm dreading the spring fairs because my business cards say Sandy Hook. Everyone used to say, "where's Sandy Hook? I never heard of it." Our days of innocence and anonymity are over.
Nance Hewitt January 21, 2013 at 07:56 PM
D You have been up to my house on lake in Sandy Hook. I heard from a friend I hadn't heard from in over 40 years. I am very over over whelmed .
Nance Hewitt January 21, 2013 at 08:02 PM
Aunt Laura ,do you know who all these people are.?
Nance Hewitt January 21, 2013 at 08:12 PM
Aunt Laura, do you remember Gravel Gurty"s. Larenzo's two hour pizza. Golf on my dads lawn golf course. Margaret Ann. Bobby's dock. the rope swing. The change. 61 years of change Shady Rest. Sandy Hook.

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