SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) Peg Brokaw, 95, had missed the early Saturday morning Mass at St. Rose of Lima, on Church Hill Road in Newtown, but said she would go inside and say a prayer, anyway. She has lived in this town a long time, and tells you her son is a retired policeman here, one who still directs traffic in front of the church occasionally.
And because this was another December in Newtown, two years now since 20 children and six adults were shot dead inside Sandy Hook Elementary, because Peg Brokaw stood outside what became the church of small coffins in Newtown, she was asked about that day.
“It is,” she said, “the kind of sadness that lives forever.”
Behind her, underneath the statue of the Blessed Virgin in front of St. Rose, there is a memorial to that sadness, a lovely mural sent to Msgr. Robert Weiss to commemorate the second year since the shooting, the names of the dead of Sandy Hook listed in small, colorful boxes. After Mass on this morning men and women of the church had been setting white candles on the walkway leading to the statue, and the mural.
“When they’re lit I imagine it will look like a stairway to heaven,” Peg Brokaw said.
Then she walked across the parking lot and into the church. In the vestibule of St. Rose, there is a box placed there by the St. Rose Knights of Columbus, where they are collecting Christmas toys in memory of Caroline Previdi, one of the first-graders who died at Sandy Hook.
The flyers on the table feature a picture of a beautiful, smiling girl with a pink bow in her hair, with Christmas and her whole life ahead of her until Adam Lanza walked into her school on a Friday morning with an automatic weapon — the kind of gun we are told must be protected or the Second Amendment is turned into a dishrag — and started shooting.
Lanza finally shot himself dead, the only kind of gun control that ever really works for shooters like him with fast-killing guns. First came the gunfire inside that school, after that it was just sirens, all the way up Dickinson Drive, the loudest and saddest day the town will ever know, as sad a day as the country has ever known, because of another gun in the wrong hands.
Mike Talluto pulls up in his car, leaves the motor running, comes out of the car with toys and board games, walks inside and drops them in Caroline Previdi’s toy chest. He comes out of Fresh Meadows in Queens, moved to Newtown nine years ago, has small children of his own, one 7 years old the day of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, attending another school in town.
He was at work in Westchester County, for Pepsi, when his wife called and said there had been an “incident” at one of the schools in town.
“Ours?” Mike Talluto remembers asking his wife.
He was told no. Not their school, not their oldest child in the line of fire.
Mike Talluto stands in front of St. Rose and says, “You leave the city. You come up here…” He shakes his head. “Two years already, can you believe it? And you still can’t put what happened that morning into words.”
There are no words, the way there are no words, two years after Sandy Hook Elementary, for a recent Pew poll that says a majority of Americans believe it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns than it is for the government of this country to somehow limit access to guns. After all the shootings we have had in America since Adam Lanza started shooting with his AR-15, a poll result like this is more insane than Lanza was that morning, 11 days before Christmas 2012.
This isn’t about responsible gun owners. This is about all the slow thinkers, starting with the mouth breathers from the National Rifle Association — the ones who have pimped themselves out to gun manufacturers and prostituted the Second Amendment at the same time — who actually believe that assault-weapons bans and tougher background checks and limits on ammunition are somehow a threat to everything good and decent.
You want to ask these people how many first-graders, or the brave adults who shielded them and tried to save them, might have lived that day if Adam Lanza didn’t have a gun made for easy killing. Which names wouldn’t be on the mural underneath the statue of the Blessed Virgin on Church Hill Road?
The school where it happened is gone. There is a huge gray canvas wall near Sandy Hook Fire and Rescue, stretching across Dickinson Drive and stretching as far as you can see up the hill, the name of a developer on it, along with “No Trespassing” warnings. A sign in front of the firehouse advertises Christmas trees for sale, and wreaths, and poinsiettias.
“What happened will always be a part of the life of the town,” Mike Talluto would say at the church later. “It will always be a part of Christmas here.”
There will be Christmas lights all over town on Sunday. The most beautiful will be the candles in front of St. Rose of Lima, what Peg Brokaw called lights from heaven, lighting up the names of Daniel, and Josephine, and Chase and Jack and Caroline Previdi and all the rest. Christmas 2014, Newtown, Conn.