We have all seen the media reports on the multiple shootings of young children in Newtown, CT.  Graham Sharp, Galleria Area Rotary Club, has immediate family just outside Newtown.  Graham & his wife, Barbara, rushed there Saturday to support his family and the local community.  Graham is providing a Rotarian insight into the aftermath of the loss of so many lives.  Click on this story heading to access his journal.

December 17 2012

Barbara and I arrived Saturday, and as you can well imagine, people here are in a very subdued state. Newtown is a small community with a narrow 2 lane road in and out. There are prayer requests out on the street, written on blankets, sheets and cardboard. It has been drizzling rain for 2 days, so the cardboard is starting to crumble, but the spirit here is certainly not. We all sat around the TV in silence last night watching the President’s address at the High School service, Logan and Cameron our grandsons, do not yet know. A local art teacher has created 20 beautiful ‘Angel’ paintings and posted them in the school grounds on a small hillside for all to see.

Our family thank goodness, live in the next ‘community’ about 10 minutes or so away. We have two grandsons, 6 and 3. As yet, they have not said anything at their school, but we hear there is an assembly this morning. 

Thanks for your efforts, concerns, thoughts and prayers for the people up here.

Sandy Hook of course is closed indefinitely. An adjacent community called Monroe happens to have an empty elementary school that was to be closed for budget cuts, and  has offered the campus to Newtown ISD, and they will be relocating the kids.  We inadvertently ran into a funeral yesterday, traffic was bad with police and cars everywhere. A police sign on the road was directing people to a shuttle bus parking lot for transportation to the cemetery.

Newtown is a small, very pretty area, all of the communities here date back to the mid-1700, but of course have added over the years. Development in these parts is very rural, heavily treed, with most homes having around an acre or so. Typical ‘movie’ idea of New England homes!  It is a ‘professional area’ for Newhaven,  Hartford,, Stamford and New York, with the majority of people in their early thirties, hence a large number of young children. See the soccer fields on the weekends, they are like ants everywhere!

It is amazing hearing of the ‘things’ pouring in from all over. The local coffee shop is offering free coffee, donated from a company in California. People are finding cards with money in them on their car windshields. Someone went a local toy store and donated money to pay off Christmas ‘lay-away accounts’.

A somber thought that it seems to take tragedies such as these to bring us publicly together. Always hidden below the surface, it would be nice if we could unite in this way in everyday life of community support.

Barbara and I had planned previously on visiting Newtown Rotary Club this evening, but that has been changed. I will be in contact with Mike Toll, their President today. As you would expect, there’s been contact from Rotary Clubs from all over.

They have created a fund for the Sandy Hook School, and should anyone wish to donate, the details are:


The fund is dedicated to the victims of the Sandy Hook School tragedy, their families and those in the Newtown community who have been affected, to help support both their short term and long term needs.  The members of the Rotary Club of Newtown wish to express their deepest condolences to all who have suffered a loss as a result of the Sandy Hook School tragedy.

Please send your tax deductible contributions to the address below or through PayPal on their Making a Donation page, on their website www.newtownctrotary.org

Newtown Rotary Sandy Hook School Fund
PO Box 263
Newtown, CT  06470

The Newtown Rotary Foundation is a non-profit, tax-exempt charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

December 18 2012

Since we haven't been able to visit the Newtown Rotary Club, we sent the following message to the Club President:

       My name is Graham Sharp and my wife Barbara and I are staying with family and grandsons (6 and 3 yrs.), in Trumbull. We are both Rotarians from D5890 in Houston and would like to make contact and help in any we or D5890 can. We were in Newtown this morning to pay our respects, although of course we could not get to the school.

      Our DG Chris Schneider, and our 2,800 members are anxious to help you in any way we can. Of course, there is the fund, but is there anything special we can do in addition?. Barbara and I are here until Dec 30th, if we can personally help in any way whatsoever.

      Please contact us. Graham & Barbara Sharp, Galleria Area Rotary Club, Houston TX D5890

December 19 2012

Monday and Tuesday saw the bulk (wrong word), saw the majority of the children’s funerals, although there will be more throughout the week; Catholic, Jewish, Methodist. The mix of sects is interesting, for such a number of children. Today we turned to the Adults who perished; The Principal, Staff and Teachers.

Wednesday brought a welcome change in the weather. Up early, helping in getting the grandkids ready for school, we saw the dawn, and then the sun came out to brighten the early pale blue sky. Even though temperatures have been around 40 o it has seemed warmer today. The dampness and cold aura of the past 4 days have gone.

More details have been released about the Teachers and their brave and heroic actions on that fateful Friday. A Photograph of a Special Education Aide, who cradled 6 year old Dylan Hockley tightly in her arms as the gunman turned on them. Dylan kept a photo of her on his fridge door at home. She was very special to him. The Principal and Counselor who charged the gunman, dying in vain in their attempt to stop him. A teacher who hid her children in a closet, blocking the door in person. A neighborhood retired doctor who found 6 children sitting in his driveway around 9:30 that morning. One of the boys told him they could not go back to school; their teacher Mrs. Soto was dead, and they no longer had a teacher. He took them in and eventually contacted parents by phone to come and collect their children. He said he finally broke down when one mother came looking for her child in vain. He said she knew!

Christmas decorations are coming down, and the town is very, very quiet. Traffic locally to the school is restricted, but dozens of TV vans still wait, parked in a diner parking lot. Yesterday as we drove by the school side road, large groups of reporters and cameramen were  gathered at the roadside adjacent to the church across the street. Another funeral was in progress, the hearse and cars silently waiting. We had talked this year in anticipation of the experience of ‘Christmas in Connecticut.’ Little did we know of the experience with which it would begin. But we are thankful; our family is still complete; the hugs are now more special!

Local people are beginning to ask when they will be left in peace. When will the public hullabaloo end, and the media return to their homes? Locally, I would expect them to be gone by Friday, allowing residents to ‘grieve’ their own grief in privacy. As I have said before, Newtown center, as such, is only a few hundred yards long. That is extremely quiet, yet it is only a mile away down Route 6, to the east, where everyone is gathered at the community of Sandy Nook.

Speaking of the media, it is a profession which by definition intrudes on people’s privacy, but from what limited contact we have had, they have “done their job with much subdued dignity”, respectfully waiting to file reports as asked by their ‘national networks’.

Reflecting on all of the stories we have heard, of all the heroic acts of valor and deliberate sacrifice made by outwardly ‘normal’ everyday citizens last Friday, I ask myself, ‘Would I have reacted in the same gallant way. Would I have made that ultimate sacrifice? How does that fit with our ultimate motto as Rotarians. Service above Self? We ask ourselves about people, ‘Would they make good Rotarians’? I think the answer is very clear; local Rotary has unknowingly ‘missed out’ on 6 superlative recruits.

Let’s make sure we all do whatever we can to assist and support Newtown Rotary Club in memorializing Sandy Nook, in whatever way they think best, for now and in the longer term healing processes.

Hug your kids closer today


Graham J Sharp

Galleria Area Rotary Club, District 5890

Past President, Champions Sunrise Rotary Club