Newtown begins process deciding on school memorial
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Newtown is taking its first steps toward deciding how to memorialize the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, setting up a commission to help guide a process that the town's leader says will likely take years.
Ideas for a permanent memorial have been coming in since shortly after the Dec. 14 shootings, in which a gunman killed 20 children and six women. First Selectwoman Pat Llodra said Thursday the suggestions have included groves, parks and a carousel or playground that would honor the memories of the children.
"They're very interesting, compelling, sensitive and beautiful suggestions," Llodra said.
The Board of Selectmen solicited volunteers from town for a commission to lead the effort, and 35 candidates came forward. Llodra said nine will be chosen, and their names will be announced later this month or in early October.
Tim Makris, co-founder of the grassroots group Sandy Hook Promise that works with many victims' families, said plans for a memorial could be moving too fast.
"These folks are still trying to get past 12/14," he said, referring to the anniversary. "What's the rush?"
Llodra said she was frank with potential volunteers that the project would require a lot of time, labor and attention.
"I thought it might have chilling effect on those willing to work," she said Thursday.
It could take years to decide on the type of memorial — if any — that should be built, find a site, select an architect and see the project through to completion. The charge to the commission requires members to consider a memorial's location, nature, scope and funding, Llodra said. Only the board of selectmen may spend the public's money.
"The question is, should there be a permanent memorial? That's their first question," she said. "What is the nature of any kind of memorial? A grove, a park or is it nothing?
It has taken years for other communities hit by tragedy to hammer out a consensus on how to memorialize the victims. A memorial to 13 students shot dead at Columbine High School in Colorado took eight years to complete. The 9/11 memorial in New York City opened in 2011, 10 years after the terrorist attacks.
In Newtown, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his mother at their home before driving to the school and opening fire on children and staff, then killing himself as police arrived. His motive remains unclear.
Llodra said the Sandy Hook memorial will be more than a physical site.
"We want to make sure we're careful and end up with an outcome that reflects who we are as a community," she said.