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A Glimpse of Heaven: Life After the Tragedy in Sandy Hook

The snow falls in big soft clumps, slowly changing the world to one bathed in white. I love watching the snow fall. It makes me feel peaceful. My heart fills with childlike wonder. I want to believe in magic as I watch the flakes shift and dance in the gentle breeze. My thoughts are interrupted realizing that the snow is also a sign from nature that the time has come to slow down, take stock and prepare for spring.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. The Memorial in downtown Sandy Hook was so large it covered the sidewalks. The town set up tents to protect many of the displays from the elements. What I can't share with you is what it smelled like-the overly sweet scent of thousands of flowers, some beginning to decay, mixed with the pungent aroma of hundreds of burning candles.

On this steely gray day as the snow fell, it began to erase signs of the many memorials scattered throughout downtown Sandy Hook, along Route 34 to the High School, and even as far as a few blocks from my home. It was just after Christmas and the crowds. Time for the families who lost loved ones to have a private tour of the offerings of teddy bears, messages, flowers and candles before they were to be taken away, crushed and used as sacred soil for a future permanent memorial.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. One of three memorials at Newtown High School, the location of where President Obama spoke.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. This lone sign is on the road I live on, which is also the road to where the gunman lived.

Mother Nature has ways to scrub things clean, through vibrant storms, high winds, torrential rain. Sooner or later, it’s all washed away; a fresh start. Space must be made for seedlings to replace lost trees. There’s no way to turn back or to protest this process. This is how it is and will always be.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. In honor of the Christmas that will never be celebrated.

25 days have passed since we lost 28 lives. We can argue about how we count those lost or why we leave some out, but in truth that is the number. The Press left, on to other stories. Our town is beginning to sort out what to do with the donations. To date The Sandy Hook School Support Fund has surpassed $6 million. There is a special team in charge of getting everything to the right people or organizations. We can finally drive through downtown Sandy Hook in about a minute, just as we used to do. There is a return to sameness upon first glance, but the underlying feeling here continues to be one of struggle to know how to go forward.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson.

There’s also a sense of closing back up; something that makes me sad. The most miraculous thing about being in New York City the day after 9|11 was how the people changed. Suddenly they were smiling, friendly, not in such a hurry that you had to get out of their way or be trampled. They acknowledged each other, instead of being fearful.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. It's difficult to show the size of the Memorial in Sandy Hook. It was on three street corners and up each street. There were smaller memorials scattered all over town.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. 26 Christmas trees lining the road to the Sandy Hook Firehouse, where the children took refuge after the shooting.

People couldn’t ignore what happened to our Country. They HAD to experience this National heartbreak and in that pain was an opening of our protective emotional shell. We had to be open. There was no way to close off from others. It was beautiful even in the heartache, but it didn’t last.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. I left one of the plush cats from our “Kitties for Kids” campaign at the Memorial in Sandy Hook to be joined with the other mementos and turned into scared soil one day.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson.

Something similar happened here in Sandy Hook. People stopped worrying about their own little issues and reached out to help each other or accept help from those outside our town.

What Adam Lanza did, in addition to breaking our hearts, also forced our hearts to be OPEN to each other. We were able to really care, not worrying about “what’s in it for me?” but instead, “what can I do to help you?”

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. We do feel the love. Thank you, world!

The other day I was at the grocery store. A woman was there with her young kids. The kids were being rude, noisy, annoying. The mother was yapping on her cell phone. I felt a sense of relief. Here was something I’d considered to be “normal,” but as soon as I thought that, my heart sank. I didn’t want things to go back to the way they were. I wanted things to change. I wanted our hearts to STAY open and for caring about each other to be our top priority-not buying Christmas gifts, not getting a job promotion, not trying to get somewhere fast at the cost of cutting off other drivers to save a minute of travel time.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. Smiling bears try to heal our broken hearts.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. Catherine Hubbard loved animals. One day she would have been saving the lives of cats and dogs if her life wasn't so tragically cut short. She went to our old dog pound and visited her favorite dog every week. She left a donation of $20 to provide for his care. After her death her parents asked for donations to go to the Newtown Animal Control, but for some reason, perhaps due to a mixup, another rescue got the donations totaling over $100,000. My rescue, Kitten Associates, got a few small donations in Catherine's honor so we will be either naming a kitten after her or asking her family to choose a name.

We’ve seen Hell on Earth and experienced Heaven in the outpouring of love from all over the world. Surely we can honor those who died in such an unfair, violent and terrifying way by NOT FORGETTING THE LESSONS we’ve learned here and continue to keep our hearts open.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. On Christmas Day I saw this guy was walking up the hill to the Memorials near the Elementary School. Perhaps he thought he was doing something thoughtful, but I saw it as a vulgar display of grandstanding that was both thoughtless and cruel-especially if any of the family members who lost a loved one saw him.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson.

As I do in my work as a cat rescuer, I dream that one day people will get a wakeup call that sticks; not one that fades away as the next story takes its place. We need to acknowledge the inter-connectedness of all beings. We’re all in this together and that’s the only way to live.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. Rather odd message to say the least.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson.

The snow lies in heavy blankets across town. The Memorials are gone, cleaned away. Mother Nature is doing her job, too and we're left to sort out how we're going to do ours in the coming days.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson.


Robin, this is really beautiful.  It's a shame that sometimes, it takes something like what happened in 2001 in New York or what happened to the people of the Newtown area to compel people to open up, as you say.  Our children, and to me, that includes cats, are so precious and we need to protect them and nurture them.  Please be assured that your neighbors and you haven't been forgotten.

Thank you, Robin, for all your posts and for all you do!

You know, there is some truth to the theory of '7 degrees of separation.' I followed you on FB, but had no idea you were in Newtown, CT.  And, even if I had, it would have meant nothing to me, until this tragic day.  You have shared so much with all of us, your heart, your tears, and especially your love...your love for the children, your community and your kitties.  You have made us FEEL with you, and for that I can't thank you enough.  What you have done by opening your home to the families to share some happy times through Kitties for Kids is precious.  You are a blessing.  Don't ever stop writing about Newtown.  Because we are all family now.  And we will always want to know how our family is doing.

Hugs and purrs to you.  Maryanne

You'd think that mother of three would have learned to put away her phone and spend every precious moment with her children. Change comes slowly, and those who were ready for it will now be different in each day. Unfortunately, there are still those who need a few more lessons. Thank you for the photos. It's hard to imagine what it's like.

I do too, Robin, bigtime.  It's what each of us who believes in goodness and love tries to act on, live in, and share.  It occurred to me while reading your post that wouldn't it have been wonderful if, somehow, the perpetrator of this unspeakable tragedy, and all like him, had had a sense of that love and goodness in his/their own life/lives, to the extent that these horrors never happened.  Just a dream.  But a dream I believe we must work toward for the present and future, each of us doing whatever we can to share goodness and love, not the opposite.

Thank you, Robin. It cannot be anything but painful for you to show us how you and your fellow Newtowners (?) are facing this horrendous tragedy. It is a great service, however; it lets me grieve with you without the intrusive sensationalism of the media. I weep and pray for you all daily. May God have mercy on our souls. We must never forget this and it must NEVER happen again. Love, Cammie 

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