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Move forward, but never forget
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Thursday marked the five-year anniversary since 26 people were killed inside an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

I want to applaud reporters Rick Rojas and Kristin Hussey of the New York Times for a remarkable story they wrote that was published Wednesday. The story details how the small, New England community has grappled with grief and how their mourning has evolved and endured.

Perhaps most fitting, the story tackles the long-lasting impact of gun violence without getting bogged down in a mindless Second Amendment debate.

"It's still so raw," said one Newtown resident in the story. "We don't know what to do."
The story stresses how virtually everyone in Newtown has some connection to the tragedy.
They were related to one of the victims, or they lived just a few houses away. They worked at the school, or know someone who did. They were a police officer on the scene, or a healthcare provider at the hospital.

The result is an entire community has been left with varying degrees of anguish at the loss of 20 children who were just 6 and 7 years old.

"I think it's OK to recognize that we're still grieving and that we should never forget," said Abbey Clements, a second-grade teacher at the school. "We don't want to forget."

Added father David Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son was killed, "It's almost impossible to ask the question 'How is the town doing?' It depends entirely on who you ask."

The story tells how the massacre has brought out the best, and worst, in people. There has been everything from acts of kindness from complete strangers to wild conspiracy theories where the parents of the victims have faced ruthless online attacks.

Years later, siblings of the victims crave a life of normalcy. They yearn to return to the days before Dec. 14, 2012 when one heartless killer forever altered their world.

The reporters interviewed Dr. William Begg, who was working at Danbury Hospital when three patients arrived. Two of them died.

Dr. Begg said the lingering trauma from the school shooting has infected the bloodstream of the entire community. He said the emotional wounds are especially pronounced for students who were at school that day.

The end result, says Dr. Begg, is the entire community has been defined by an event which lasted less than an hour.

"When you say you're from Newtown, you have to be ready to answer those questions," he said. "I will not say I'm from Newtown unless I have to. If they say, 'Where are you from?' I'll say, 'I'm from Connecticut.'"

News reports will say 26 people were killed five years ago in a school shooting, but that doesn't accurately convey how so many have been forever changed.

The main question, which seems to be tricky to answer, is how does a community move forward when it vows never to forget?

Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.