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Entries in Newtown (56)

Saturday
May112013

Committee Recommends Tearing Down Sandy Hook Elementary School

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEWTOWN, Conn.) -- A committee voted on Friday night to raze Sandy Hook Elementary School, the site of the horrifying school shooting on December 14, and build a new school in its place.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the unanimous vote brought some of the committee members to tears. The vote, only a recommendation, will now go to the Board of Education for approval. There will eventually be a town referendum on the proposal as well.

Building the new school is expected to cost between $42 million and $47 million, according to the Wall Street Journal, which the state of Connecticut and the federal government are expected to pay.

The school would not open until at least January 2016.

Sandy Hook Elementary students have been attending Chalk Hill Middle School in Monroe, Conn., since January.

The committee gathered Friday night to decide whether to rebuild at the same location as the old Sandy Hook Elementary School or to build a new school at a location less than a mile away, says the Wall Street Journal.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr072013

First of 26 Newtown Memorial Playgrounds Opens

iStockphoto(SEA BRIGHT, N.J.) -- The first of 26 planned memorial playgrounds in honor of each of the victims of the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting was unveiled in Sea Bright, N.J. on Saturday.

The playgrounds are part of “The Sandy Ground Project: Where Angels Play,” which is spearheaded by New Jersey's Firefighter's Mutual Benevolent Association. They are building the playgrounds both to honor the victims of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Newtown, and to help revive communities that were hit hard by Superstorm Sandy.

More playgrounds are planned in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut communities that are still recovering from the hurricane.

The playground that opened Saturday in Sea Bright honors special education teacher Anne Marie Murphy.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb272013

Father of Newtown Victim Breaks Down at Senate Judiciary Hearing

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A father who lost his son in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary last year broke down in tears while presenting in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Neil Heslin, whose son Jesse Lewis was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012, visibly sobbed two times while talking about his son.  

“Jesse was the love of my life.  He was the only family I had left.  It’s hard for me to be here today to talk about my deceased son.  I have to.  I’m his voice,” Heslin said as he broke down in tears.

Heslin recounted his last moments with his son when he took him to pick up his favorite sausage egg and cheese sandwich and hot chocolate before dropping him off at school on the morning of December 14.

“It was 9:04 when I dropped Jesse off. Jesse gave me a hug and a kiss and at that time said goodbye and love you.  He stopped and said, ‘I loved mom too.’  That was the last I saw of Jesse as he ducked around the corner," Heslin said.

"Prior to that when he was getting out of the truck he hugged me and held me and I could still feel that hug and pat on the back and he said everything’s going to be ok dad. It’s all going to be ok,” Heslin said breaking down in tears a second time. “It wasn’t ok.  I have to go home at night to an empty house without my son.”

Heslin praised the assault weapons ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and argued that it does not threaten the rights of gun owners.

“It’s not about taking weapons from the owners. It’s putting a ban on the manufacturing and curbing the sale of them.  It’s not hurting the sportsman, it’s not hurting the gun owners now,” Heslin said.

Dr. William Begg, who was one of the physicians present in the emergency room on the day of the deadly shooting, told families physicians and nurses tried their best to save their children and advocated on behalf of an assault weapons ban, stronger background check system, and an investment in research for mental health.  

“People say that the overall number of assault weapon deaths is small but you know what? Please don’t tell that to the people of Tucson or Aurora or Columbine or Virginia Tech and don’t tell that to the people in Newtown,” Begg said as he choked up and people in the crowd clapped. “Don’t tell that to the people in Newtown. This is a tipping point.  This is a tipping point and this is a public health issue, please make the right decision."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb152013

President Obama Honors Newtown Victims with Citizens Medal

The President on December 14, 2012(WASHINGTON) -- In an emotional ceremony at the White House Friday, President Obama honored six educators who “gave all they had for the most innocent and helpless among us” with the Presidential Citizens Medal.

Principal Dawn Hochsprung, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, and teachers Lauren Rousseau, Victoria Soto, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy lost their lives in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last December. On Friday, they were among 18 Americans recognized with the nation’s second-highest civilian honor.

“When they showed up for work at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14th of last year, they expected a day like any other, doing what’s right for their kids, spend a chilling morning readying classrooms and welcoming young students,” Obama said at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

“They had no idea that evil was about to strike. And when it did, they could have taken shelter by themselves. They could have focused on their own safety, and their own well-being. But they didn’t. They gave their lives to protect the precious children in their care,” he said.

One by one, the families of the victims, many visibly emotional, came on stage to accept the medal on behalf of their loved ones. Each was met with a consoling hug from the president.

“I’ve gotten to know many of you during the course of some very difficult weeks, and your courage and love for each other and your communities shines through every single day, and we could not be more blessed and grateful for your loved ones who gave everything they had on behalf of our kids,” Obama said.

“That’s what we honor today, the courageous heart, the selfless spirit, the inspiring actions of extraordinary Americans, extraordinary citizens,” he said.

 

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan312013

Conn. Task Force on Gun Violence Hears from Newtown Parents

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEWTOWN, Conn.) -- Connecticut’s legislature's task force on gun violence prevention and children's safety met in Newtown Wednesday, the site of the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 first-graders and six adults dead.

Parents of the murdered children appeared at the hearing to express their desire for strong action to avoid another occurrence of “an unstable, suicidal individual” having access to military-style assault weapons.

The reference was to 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who first killed his mother at home before going on a shooting spree at the school and then taking his own life.  Lanza had been diagnosed with mental issues throughout his life.

Neil Heslin, who lost his 6-year-old son Jesse Lewis on Dec. 14, was direct in what he expected from the task force, calling for “a ban on assault rifles and military-style guns.”

Nicole Hockley's 6-year-old son Dylan was also one of the youngsters killed in the attack.  She told the gathering, “I'm not here to remind you of our sorrow.  I'm not here to proselytize about legislation.  You are our elected officials and it is your duty to create and enforce the laws that protect and help us.”

Meanwhile, a father of a Newtown pre-schooler told lawmakers, “The basic constitutional right to bear arms is a right that should not be impaired merely because others may precipitate violence.  Further restrictions on and bans merely protect the robber, and give them to the advantage over the robbed.”

Wednesday was the task force's final hearing.  Last Monday in Hartford, many of the participants stood in opposition to weakening what they believe are Second Amendment Rights while the Newtown summit focused more on gun control.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan152013

Children Record Song to Benefit Newtown, Connecticut Causes

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- One month after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and six teachers dead, the children of Newtown, Conn., are eager to help their community.

“So many of the students came to me the day of the tragedy, the day after the tragedy.  And all I could see in their eyes, and you know, from what they were telling me is ‘how do we help’?” local music school owner Sabrina Post told ABC's Good Morning America in an interview that aired on Tuesday.

The children made banners. They drew pictures and helped create memorials.  They tied green and white ribbons -- the school’s colors.  But they still weren’t satisfied.

So 21 children gathered at the Connecticut home of Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, both of the legendary rock band Talking Heads, to record a song that they hope will raise money for Newtown.  The children are mostly current or former students of Sandy Hook Elementary.

“My hope is that the kids from Sandy Hook School will have a hit record, you know?” Frantz, the band’s drummer, said.  “And I think they have a pretty good chance.”

Singer Ingrid Michaelson was asked to lend her voice to the project -- a cover of the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

“I thought, well, you know, even if it makes these kids who have been through so much, if it brings them and afternoon of joy and excitement then that’s what I can do, then that’s what I’ll do,” she said, adding, “I think there’s nothing more hopeful than hearing children’s voices in unison all together.  So yeah, I think people will feel that way, I hope so.”

Kayla Verga, 10, sang for her friend, 6-year-old Jessica Rekos, who was one of the students killed when Adam Lanza went on his Dec. 14 shooting rampage at the school.

“Singing the song makes me feel like she’s with me and she’s beside me, singing along with me,” Kayla told GMA.

Barrett DeYoung, 13, said he participated because she wants to help the survivors at her former school in “any way we can.”

Jane Shearin, 10, a Sandy Hook Elementary School student, sang because she wanted to help.

“I really want to be kind to the people who have lost their loved ones and help them to recover from their sorrow,” she said, adding that she hoped “someday our world will be peaceful and loving, no violence at all.”

The children’s recording will be available Tuesday on Amazon.com and iTunes.com.  All proceeds will go towards the Newtown Youth Academy and the United Way of Western Connecticut.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan142013

POLL: After Newtown Shootings, Most Back Some Gun Controls

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A majority of Americans favor such gun control measures as banning assault weapons and expanding background checks on those who buy guns and ammunition, with support for banning high-capacity ammunition magazines at a new high in ABC News/Washington Post polls.

With Vice President Joe Biden set to present recommendations that were prompted by the Newtown, Conn., school shootings last month, this latest poll shows overwhelming support for certain moves: Eighty-eight percent favor background checks on firearms buyers at gun shows; 76 percent support checks on buyers of ammunition and 71 percent back a new federal database that would track all gun sales.

For full results, charts and tables, CLICK HERE.

Sixty-five percent also support banning high-capacity ammunition magazines, a high in three ABC/Post polls to test the idea since early 2011, and up by 6 percentage points since just after the Newtown shootings. Among other suggestions, 58 percent favor banning the sale of so-called assault weapons, 55 percent support the National Rifle Association’s call for armed guards in schools and 51 percent would ban semi-automatic handguns.

Notably, support for the most popular of these measures – expanded background checks, a gun database and banning high-capacity magazines – includes a majority of people who live in gun-owning households, a group that accounts for 44 percent of all adults in this country.

The intensity of support for all these proposals is also notable; “strong” support for each measure outstrips strong opposition, in most cases by overwhelming margins (save the two less-popular items, armed school guards and a semi-automatic handgun ban). For instance, 50 percent “strongly” favor banning assault weapons, twice the number who strongly opposes it. And 76 percent strongly support background checks at gun shows, while only 8 percent say they’re are strongly opposed.

Fifty-five percent in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, express worry about a mass shooting in their own communities, and 52 percent say the Newtown shootings have made them more likely to support some forms of gun control.

As noted, support for banning high-capacity magazines is at a new high in polling since 2011. But there’s no consistent change on other proposals. Support for background checks on gun show buyers is essentially the same as it was in the late 1990s; support for banning assault weapons is numerically up from its low in 2009 but still well below its levels in the mid- to late 1990s; and support for banning semi-automatic handguns has been essentially steady in recent years.

ACTION – Looking ahead to the possibility of legislative action, most Americans give the issue at least a high priority for the president and Congress to address, but not “the highest,” and more give greater priority to "addressing gun violence” (68 percent) than specifically “enacting stricter gun control laws” (59 percent).

While they reach majorities, both of these are lower on the list than other top-shelf issues, including the economy, cutting federal spending, restructuring the tax system and slowing the rate of growth in spending on Social Security and Medicare.

The higher priority for “addressing gun violence” versus “enacting stricter gun control laws” (in a split-sample test) likely reflects some compunctions about whether gun control measures will work. The public, for instance, divides on whether stricter gun laws or armed guards in schools would be more effective (43-41 percent), and as many or more blame gun violence on inadequate treatment of the mentally ill, and on irresponsibility among gun owners, as on other causes.

FACTORS – Many factors receive broad blame for gun crimes. Leading the list, more than eight in 10 see inadequate treatment of the mentally ill, inadequate background checks and lack of individual responsibility by gun owners as contributors to gun violence, and more than half, in each case, say these contribute “a great deal” to the problem.

Sixty-nine to 73 percent also see the availability of semi-automatic handguns, high-capacity ammunition clips and assault weapons as contributors – yet as many say the same about the prevalence of violence in TV programs, movies and video games. The fewest numerically, 38 percent, believe violence in the media contributes “a great deal” to gun violence.

There are three items on which more people say the issue contributes to gun violence than favor legislative action: Sixty-nine percent see access to semi-automatic handguns as a contributor, versus 51 percent who favor banning such weapons; 73 percent say assault weapons are a contributor, versus 58 percent who favor banning those; and 70 percent see high-capacity magazines as a factor in gun violence, while slightly fewer, 65 percent, would ban them. The gaps apparently exist at least in part because support for action is lower among those who see these as contributing “somewhat” but not a great deal to gun violence – a group that includes more pro-gun individuals, such as people in gun-owning households, men and political conservatives.

GROUPS – There are striking differences among groups on some, but not all, gun control issues. Support for gun control measures generally is higher among women than men, with the gap peaking on a ban on semi-automatic handguns, supported by 60 percent of women versus 40 percent of men.

In addition to the expected partisan and ideological divisions, support for gun control also is higher in several cases among senior citizens vs. the youngest adults, among city dwellers vs. those in suburbs or rural areas, in Democratic-voting blue states vs. more-Republican red states, and in non-gun households vs. those in which someone owns a firearm. There also are regional divisions, with support for gun control typically highest in the Northeast and lowest in the South.

These differences, however, generally fade on the issues on which agreement is most broad – background checks, a gun database and banning high-capacity magazines.

Patterns are different in support for armed guards in schools; this idea is more popular with conservatives versus liberals (63 versus 44 percent), in red versus blue states (67 versus 49 percent) and among Republicans versus Democrats and independents (65 versus 52 percent). It also gets more support from parents with minor children, 62 percent, versus 51 percent among other adults. In the biggest gap, the proposal for armed school guards is nearly 30 points more popular with people who see the NRA’s leadership favorably than among those who see it unfavorably, 69 versus 40 percent.

There are other differences among groups that inform views on gun control. Women, for instance, are 13 points more apt than men to say the Newtown shootings have made them more likely to support some forms of gun control, and 16 points more likely to be worried that a mass shooting could occur in their own area. That worry is a prime factor in support for stricter gun laws.

THE NRA – While recent polls have found the NRA to be popular overall with a majority of Americans, this survey finds a less positive assessment of the association’s leadership -  more see it unfavorably than favorably by an 8-point margin, 44 versus 36 percent, although many don’t know enough to say.

There’s a mixed result on the NRA’s influence on gun policy; on the one hand more, 38 percent, say it has too much influence versus too little (24 percent) or about the right amount (30 percent). At the same time, that makes a majority, netted, saying its influence is too little or about right.

The NRA’s leadership, naturally, has far more support among people in gun-owning versus non-gun-owning households – a 52 percent versus 22 percent favorable rating. Similarly, 49 percent in non-gun households say the NRA has too much influence over gun laws. In gun households 27 percent agree.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan142013

One Month After Newtown Shooting, Parents Work to Bolster Dialogue

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- One month after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, parents gathered in Newtown, Conn., to publicly pay tribute to their slain children and to support the founders of the non-profit Sandy Hook Promise, who outlined discussion points for a national dialogue on guns and violence.

Speaking at a press conference at Newtown, Conn., Monday morning, Tom Bittman, co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise, outlined three discussion points that the organization hopes will bolster a national discussion and affect change in communities: gun responsibility, mental health and making public spaces safer.

"We have a responsibility to make something happen," Bittman said. "We want Newtown to be remembered for change. We refuse to be remembered only for our loss. We want the shooting to be remembered as a turning point."

Bittman emphasized that some of the members of Sandy Hook Promise are gun owners, but that they believe in responsibility and accountability. He also said that though new laws can be passed by Congress in the wake of the shooting, which left 20 children and six adults dead on Dec. 14, 2012, the organization is looking to individuals to look for solutions for what they can do in their communities.

"We don't have all of the answers, but we do know some of the questions," he said. "If we search for new strategies, we might find solutions we couldn't have dreamed of a decade ago."

The group is asking people across the country to sign the Sandy Hook Promise, which asks participants "do everything I can to encourage and support common sense solutions that make my community and our country safer from similar acts of violence."

Sandy Hook Promise was formed in the days following the December 14 shooting under the original name Newtown United.

Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan Hockley was killed in the shooting, spoke frankly about the loss of her son and the moments that she forgets he is gone.

"It's a sad honor to be here today," she said. "At times it feels like only yesterday, and at others it feels like many years have passed," she said. "I still find myself reaching for Dylan's hand as I walk through a parking lot. I expect him to crawl into bed beside me for early morning cuddles before school … it's so hard to believe he's gone."

David Wheeler, whose son Ben died at Sandy Hook Elementary, pointedly asked parents to question how far they'd to ensure their children's safety.

"I would respectfully request that every parent in this country … pause and think and ask yourself, what is it worth doing to keep your children safe?" he said. "What is it worth to you? What is it worth doing?"

Appearing on ABC’s Good Morning America Monday, Jimmy Greene and Nelba Marquez-Greene, who also spoke at Monday’s press conference, spoke of their grief for their little girl, Ana Marquez-Greene, and honored her memory.

"She was kind, she was loving, she was smart -- and she was also a fashionista -- she loved those gaudy flowers. I'm wearing it for her today," Nelba Marquez-Greene said, referring to her flower headwear. "We're hoping that through Sandy Hook Promise, we can bring awareness to issues, and start a conversation based on love and respect."

Ana caught the nation's attention in a video where she sang "Come Thou Almighty King" while her 9-year-old brother Isaiah played the piano. Marquez-Greene said that she wants her work now to be a tribute to her little girl.

"[She was] passionate, she was abut loving God and loving people, and I hope that that can be the legacy that we leave," she said. "That love wins, and that love will prevail in this."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan062013

Gun Show Near Newtown Goes On, While Others Rush to Cancel

ABC News(STAMFORD, Conn.) -- A little more than 40 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School, where last month 20 first graders and six staff members were massacred, gun dealers and collectors alike ignored calls to cancel a gun show, and gathered for business in Stamford, Conn.

Four other gun shows with an hour of Newtown, Conn., recently cancelled their events in the wake of the shootings, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza broke in to the elementary school with a semi-automatic assault rifle and three other guns.

The organizers in Stamford emphasized their show only displayed antique and collectible guns, not military style assault weapons like the one used by Lanza in Sandy Hook.

Still, Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia had called for the show to close its doors, calling it "insensitive" to hold so close to the murders.

Gun show participant Sandy Batchelor said he wasn't sure about whether going ahead with the show was "insensitive," but said the shooter should be blamed, not the weapons he used.

"I don't have a solid opinion on [whether it is insensitive]," Batchelor said. "I'm not for or against it. I would defend it by saying it wasn’t the gun."

In nearby Waterbury, the community cancelled a show scheduled for this weekend.

"I felt that the timing of the gun show so close to that tragic event would be in bad taste," Waterbury Police Chief Michael J. Gugliotti said.

Gugliotti has halted permits for gun shows, saying he was concerned about firearms changing hands that might one day be used in a mass shooting.

But across the country, farther away from Connecticut, attendance at gun shows is spiking, and some stores report they can hardly keep weapons on their shelves with some buyers fearful that the federal government will soon increase restrictions on gun sales and possibly ban assault weapons altogether.

"We sold 50-some rifles in days," said Jonathan O'Connor, store manager of Gun Envy in Minnesota.

President Obama said after the Sandy Hook shooting that addressing gun violence would be one of his priorities and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, (D-Calif.), said she would introduce an assault weapons ban this month.

But it is not just traditional advocates of gun control that have said there need to be changes in gun laws since the horrific school shooting.

Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat but a long-time opponent of gun control who like Hutchison has received an A rating from the NRA, have both come out in support of strengthening gun laws.

In Stamford, gun dealer Stuart English said participants at the gun show there are doing nothing wrong.

"I have to make a living. Life goes on," gun dealer Stuart English said.

ABC News asked English, what he thought about the mayor of Stamford calling the show "insensitive."

"He's wrong," English said. "This is a private thing he shouldn't be expressing his opinion on."

 

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan032013

Sandy Hook Parents Shadow Students on Return to School

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Parents in Newtown, Conn., put their children on school buses Thursday morning and waved goodbye as the yellow buses rolled away.  But this first day back since the pre-Christmas massacre is anything but normal for the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Erin Milgram, the mother of a first grader and a fourth grader at Sandy Hook, told ABC's Good Morning America that she was going to drive behind the bus and stay with her 7-year-old Lauren for the entire school day.

"I haven't gotten that far yet, about not being with them," Milgram said.  "I just need to stay with them for a while."

Thursday is "Opening Day" for Sandy Hook Elementary School, which is re-opening about six miles away in the former Chalk Hill school in Monroe, Conn.

Lauren was in teacher Kaitlin Roig's first grade class on Dec. 14 when gunman Adam Lanza forced his way into the school and killed 20 students and six staffers.

Roig has been hailed a hero for barricading her students in a classroom bathroom and refusing to open the door until authorities could find a key to open the door.

The 20 students killed were first-graders and the Milgrams have struggled to explain to Lauren why so many of her friends will never return to school.

"She knows her friends and she'll also see on the bus... there will be some missing on the bus," Milgram said.  "We look at yearbook pictures.  We try to focus on the happy times because we really don't know what we're doing."

"How could someone be so angry?" Lauren's father Eric Milgram wondered before a long pause.  "We don't know."

The school has a lecture room available for parents to stay as long as they wish and they are also allowed to accompany their children to the classroom to help them adjust.  Counselors will be available throughout the day for parents, staff and students, according to the school's website.

The first few days will be a delicate balancing act between assessing the children's needs and trying to get them back to a normal routine.

"We don't want to avoid memories of a trauma," Dr. Jamie Howard told Good Morning America.  "And so by getting back to school and by engaging in your routines, we're helping kids to do that, we're helping them to have a natural, healthy recovery to a trauma."

Security is paramount in everyone's mind.  There is a police presence on campus and drivers of every vehicle that comes onto campus are being interviewed.

"Our goal is to make it a safe and secure learning environment for these kids to return to, and the teachers also," Monroe police Lt. Keith White said at a news conference on Wednesday.

A "state-of-the-art" security system is in place, but authorities will not go into detail about the system, saying only that the school will probably be "the safest school in America."

Every adult in the school who is not immediately recognizable will be required to wear a badge as identification, parent and school volunteer Karen Dryer told ABC News.

"They want to know exactly who you are at sight, whether or not you should be there," Dryer said.

Despite the precautions and preparations, parents will still be coping with the anxiety of parting with their children.

"Rationally, something like this is a very improbable event, but that still doesn't change the emotional side of the way you feel," Eric Milgram said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio







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