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Sandy Hook shooting: Ex-Newtown resident sees way of life change

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Kathleen Hughes doesn’t want Newtown, Conn., to be known only as a place where a mad man killed 20 first-graders and six adults at a school last week before taking his own life.

It is an idyllic place, an hour or so outside New York City, where young families move so their children will be happy and safe.

It’s where James Brunot invented the game of Scrabble, and the farm store makes its own ice cream. Steamboat inventor Robert Fulton’s family lived there, as did Harvey Hubble, developer of the space telescope. She called the town a little jewel box.

“I raised my children in Newtown, Conn.” said Hughes, who lives with her husband, Frank, in Heritage Plantation. “My son and his family live there. My 6-year-old grandson lost friends and teammates on Friday, and his older sisters have friends who lost siblings. My heart is broken for them, my family, Newtown and this country where senseless violence has become part of the daily conversation.

“I used to call Newtown ‘Brigadoon without the music, the town that time forgot.’ The atmosphere there is, indeed, a walk back in time. It is a New England Mayberry full of special holiday celebrations and events.”

Hughes’ neighbors in Heritage, Thea and Cliff Smith, are from the same area. Though they were not acquainted, all their children graduated from Newtown High School. Thea Smith said they have been support for each other during the aftermath of the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Kathleen Hughes expects the people of Newtown to pull together in their hour of grief.

“If it takes a village to raise a child, this is the village where you want to live,” she said. “And this will be the village to heal them — the children, the parents and the devastated townspeople. The broken hearts of the world are with them.”

Cedric and Carol Scott of Pawleys Retreat are from Trumbull, Conn., just nine miles from Newtown. They also found comfort from their neighbors after tying 26 ribbons — 12 pink for the girls, eight blue for the boys and six white for the adults — to a bush in their yard as a memorial to those who were slain.

“We felt helpless,” Carol Scott said. “It’s a heart-breaking thing. Our neighbors drive by and express what a wonderful testament this is. It’s eased our pain to know that our neighbors are saying a prayer for them.”

More prayers were offered last night at Belin United Methodist Church in Murrells Inlet during a candlelight vigil by the cross overlooking the marsh.

The Rev. Mike Alexander, senior pastor, said church member Bill Judd, who has strong connections to Connecticut, promoted the prayer vigil after Sunday’s sermon where he talked about how the children of Bethlehem were killed by Herod. “Those parents must not have understood,” Alexander said, “just like the parents in Newtown.”

Alexander said the names of the 20 children and six school employees were called out. The candles represented the light of Christ.

He said it’s important for people to talk about the events in Newtown and not sweep them under the rug.

“In our community,” Alexander said, “we have the same issues, the same people that every community has. We will be faced with some issue. People who talk about things get through things.”

The Belin ceremony was also planned as a tribute to first responders, the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office and Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Department.

“We want to lay the groundwork here to be better people,” Alexander said, “and talk with everyone face to face, not on Facebook or by e-mail. We live in a technical time, but we’ve got to talk and pay attention to each other. Maybe, if someone had talked to this troubled young man, things would have been different.”

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