Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sweet Valentine's, it's Been Two Months | Journey to Sandy Hook

Photo Bracelet by Made for Memories
Driving into the fog just at the boarder of Connecticut, I was instantly stirred with sadness. The days leading up to my trip to Newtown & Sandy Hook included a DUMPING snow storm that affected the entire Northeast. I'd been staying with family in New York, a short drive to the edge of where tragedy struck just 2 months ago today.

In January, I worked together with Mamatography students and beyond to raise funds for a project that at times felt, frankly, trivial. 
But what inspired it was anything but. The violent loss of 20 elementary school children did (and should) make any person, mother, father, HUMAN want to get off their ass and say or do SOMETHING.

Clicking through my Facebook newsfeed after the holidays, a pretty little photo charm bracelet popped up from Made for Memories Photo Jewelry
(I don't wear much jewelry, but the softness of this piece made by the talented Clarissa Hickman was something to take notice of.)

Bracelets in production

Sleeping on some thoughts of what was happening post 12/14/12, that bracelet kept coming to mind….

"What if the moms of the children lost in Sandy Hook had one of these with a memory of their child attached to them when they felt they needed it?"

But with that came so many additional questions...
1. If I were that mom on the receiving end, the mom who's child was now painfully absent from my life, could I bare to be reminded?
2. How would they get into the right hands?
3. How to pay for them all?

Finished bracelets delivered in a plush box. The quality of the stone was just incredible. I cried.

 Not long after I woke up one Monday morning, emails were bouncing back and forth, these questions being answered. First, Clarissa telling me she was game to contribute her time to make these stunning artifacts and then that same day, a reply from a member of the (Olivia) Engle family. He thought that Olivia's mom would in fact find joy in having one of these bracelets. So we carried on!

The plan was to raise $500 in one week and quickly get the ball rolling on production of the bracelets. I'd be staying this month in NY with family and thought, why not hand deliver the bracelets instead of mailing them. And, I'd bring Safi with me to tell her what she'd been apart of one day.

Soon I would hear from a lovely resident of Sandy Hook, Rebekah. She offered to meet me in Newtown, pick up the bracelets, and distribute them to the moms at hand. Rebekah helped organize the My Sandy Hook Family Fund in the days following the shooting. In meeting with her this week, I was enlightened to find that her fund has raised over $1 Million dollars and counting for the victim's families. She told me that the goal is 2.6 Million so that EVERY family would receive $100,000 to cover long term expenses while being out of work and all that comes with coping with such a mindless event. 

If you would like to contribute to the My Sandy Hook Family Fund, you may do so HERE.

I didn't know the geography of Newtown, CT and thought that Sandy Hook was just the name of the school. As it seems, Newtown is the larger town where the village (and schools) of Sandy Hook reside on the map. There are multiple elementary schools in the area, that I imagine the spared children now attend. 

If I were to paint a picture of a classical town in America that I would want to live, THIS town would be it. A sleepy village where kids can ride their bikes to the toy store or throw a fishing line in the stream during the summer. A place to enjoy and be amongst neighbors.

After my insightful and emotional meeting with Rebekah and her lovely, local friend (both moms of 6 year olds in the town), I dashed off to drive by the school to snap some shots before heading back to my hotel.

The town and village were a BLANKET of snow. It was dreary, it was lonely. I can count on one hand the people out and about that day on my way into Sandy Hook village. A tractor driver, 2 teenaged girls on a porch puffing smokes, the fireman who turned me away from the school and a snow plow driver in the parking lot along this dreamy river bank.

School was canceled that day, Sandy Hook Elementary remains closed and I guess there was probably no need to plow through the strange side road that leads up to it. Needless to say, I didn't get through to the 'scene'. For the best I suppose. The town stood for it's self. The stars on the phone poles with words from children spoke volumes though their was no one around to speak to.

This wasn't my score to settle, there's no closure from this. Not for any of us. Just acts of kindness to be performed with no expectation or want….just silence and peace, for all souls.
To all who donated to the Photo Bracelet project for the Sandy Hook moms, THANK YOU. Rebekah has told me that they are being well received.