Holidays feel different this year

L

ast week, the General Assembly came together for a special session to vote on bipartisan legislation to solve the $412 million budget deficit.

Many of the proposed cuts that would have harmed seniors and working families were avoided, but some, like hospitals, saw a portion of state assistance reduced. In addition, the General Assembly came together to honor and remember those who were lost in the senseless tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School which affected our lives in profound ways. This year’s holiday will feel a little different, as we focus on our friends and families, hugging them a bit tighter and letting them know how much we love them more frequently.

We will not soon forget the countless stories of heroism and bravery in the face of such an unthinkable crime. Teachers, administrators, first responders and the students took extraordinary measures during an event that no one could have ever imagined. Among the 26 who lost their lives, we must recognize the heroic efforts of Victoria “Vicki” Soto, the 27 year-old teacher and 2003 graduate of Stratford High School, who laid down her life to protect her first grade students and whose quick thinking is credited with saving the lives of a nineteen children.

Hundreds turned out to remember and honor her life at a candlelight vigil at the Stratford Town Hall and her funeral at Lordship Community Church. As Mayor John Harkins said, “You have a teacher who cared more about her students than herself. That speaks volumes to her character, and her commitment and dedication.”

The town of Monroe has also stepped forward to help Newtown elementary students return to school. In order to get the former Chalk Hill School up and running, many tradesmen have graciously volunteered their services to make sure that the building renovation proceeds quickly in preparation for a return to school on January 2.

There are ways for you to give back to the community. If you would like to volunteer your skills or expertise that could be valuable during this time, the United Way of Connecticut will collect your information and pass it on to the appropriate state agency who will contact you if your services are needed. To submit this information, please call the state’s free infoline at 211 or visit their website at www.211ct.org and click the Sandy Hook/Newtown Resources link.

In addition, many have asked how they could give to the families affected. The United Way of Western Connecticut in partnership with the Newtown Savings Bank have set up the Sandy Hook School Support Fund to provide support services, immediate needs and funeral expenses for the immediate families of victims. If you would like to donate, checks can be mailed to: Sandy Hook School Support Fund, c/o Newtown Savings Bank, 39 Main Street, Newtown, CT 06470. Donations can also be made online at https://newtown.uwwesternct.org.

Sometimes, it may also be difficult to talk with our children about these events. If you are looking for some tips, there are many resources available from a variety of sources, including the American Psychological Association and the National Institute of Mental Health, to help understand how best to approach these subjects. The Connecticut Commission on Children has compiled a list of resources that can be viewed at www.cga.ct.gov/coc/newtown.htm.

At the memorial ceremony, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, who represents Newtown, referenced an editorial in the Newtown Bee newspaper, and I would like to share it with you as well: “[O]ur community has suffered a grievous wound — a wound that will leave an obvious scar. From now on, when people learn that we are from Newtown, they will focus on that scar, and perhaps, impolitely, it will be the first thing they ask about our town.

“We will never hide it or apologize for it. It is the mark left behind by so many innocents who were violently torn from the embrace of our community on December 14, 2012. We will never forget them. And our message to the rest of the world, which is listening so closely to us now: Remember the great promise of all the lives of the children and the educators who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and live accordingly.”

I hope you and your family have a blessed holiday season.

 

Sen. Kevin Kelly represents the 21st District, which includes all of Shelton, most of Stratford, and parts of Monroe and Seymour.

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