It has been nearly three weeks since Adam Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and shattered the innocence of so many school children and their parents. Today, the Sandy Hook children return to school, and while no one thinks it will be easy, the Newtown community has truly created a miracle for these kids.
The 26 murdered school children and their teachers will never be forgotten, but for the kids, a return to "normalcy" was desperately needed. The community has worked tirelessly to "re-create" Sandy Hook down to the pencil boxes. The children will be in the building that used to be the Chalk Hill Middle School in Monroe, about six miles away.
Since principal Dawn Hochsprung was one of the victims of the shooting, the school principal will be Donna Page who had retired from the job in 2010 after 14 years. She says she "felt a calling" to come out of retirement.
Page, like many others in Newtown, is nothing short of amazing and generous. And even though this tragedy is epic in proportion and none of us will ever forget it, the fact that the very community in which it occurred can move forward for the children who are left is a testament to the power of the human spirit.
The only way we heal from tragedies is to help one another, to find community, and to work toward a higher goal. In this case, that goal is continuity for children who have been through an unimaginable trauma. And in that, the Sandy Hook community has been breathtakingly generous.
All of the classrooms have been re-created just as they were. In fact, teachers photographed their classrooms at Sandy Hook in order to re-create every small detail -- the pictures on the walls are the same, the crayons left on the students' desks are the same.
The hope is that all of these details will help to make the school more familiar and less terrifying. Over the past few weeks, builders have transformed the middle school into an elementary one by lowering sinks and toilets so that smaller bodies may use them.
New security systems have been installed and parents are assured it's "safe."
Of course, no place will feel safe for the parents who lost children or the children who have been traumatized. I can't even imagine what it must have felt like on Wednesday to have the "parent open house" and to imagine letting go of my child's hand again after such a tragedy.
But the care and thought that has gone into every detail of this new school is all about the power of community. It's the only thing that can save us during the hard times and the only way these parents and children will learn to trust again. There was one horrible, horrific, evil man who perpetrated this crime. But there are thousands of loving, caring community members in Newtown and outside of it, who will work tirelessly around the clock, come out of retirement, and give up a holiday "break" to make sure that each and every one of these kids feels safe.
It won't fix it. But it does help start to heal broken hearts.
What do you think of the return to Sandy Hook?
Image via Spirit-Fire/Flickr