Six Months Later

It’s six months since Sandy Hook.

Here in Monroe, CT, where the survivors now go to school (and will be going until a new school is built for them), today is a somber day where we all are reliving that awful Friday in our heads, thinking of all of our many personal connections to those who lost so much that day, and reflecting on how much (and how little) the world has changed.

In other parts of the country, Sandy Hook and its awful terror seems to have long since been forgotten.   Or worse, thought of negatively, as perhaps the “Connecticut Effect”, where a real world tragedy brought to light some of the terrible and real cracks in our society’s foundation.  For those who do not want our society to change, Sandy Hook is perhaps a term used negatively.

But not here.  Here it’s a phrase woven with love and sadness and protective fierceness.  I sat in on a discussion last week of how our own schools will be doing construction over the summer to make them safer.  All of the exterior doors will be replaced.  All of the classroom doors will now have two way locks, so they can be locked in the inside as well as the outside.  When I was a teacher, twenty years ago, this never occurred to us (and I taught in the inner city!).  They are reconstructing the entry ways of each school to have “sallyports” or vestibules rather than open access to the building.  In one school, this means moving the school office to a different location, so the staff can have “visual command” of the entry way.  Glass will enclose these sallyports way from the main hallways.  The glass will not shatter with bullets, we were told.  The glass will stay in place, even when it breaks.

All of this will “slow down” an intruder, our superintendent said, not stop them.  Which is why we have had, and will continue to have, police officers stationed at each school as well.

What a horrible new reality we are living in here.  The Connecticut Effect is definitely present here next door to Newtown.   It is inescapable.  It is our every day these days.

Despite all of the awful, there is also wonder and awe at how kindness and love have become more recognized and more present in our world.  Our race two weekends ago brought out the best of our giving and helping community.  Our town is offering the school where Sandy Hook kids attend rent free to Newtown.   Everywhere you turn there are little green signs in storefront windows proclaiming “Love Wins” or “Choose Love” or “Sandy Hook Loves Monroe”.  Many businesses here sell little bracelets, ribbons or shirts to help raise money for the victims and their families.

So here we are, six months out.  Tonight we will leave our porch light on, a beacon of light in the darkness that has been left here for so many.  And perhaps, maybe a promise that the world will not forget what happened just nine miles up the road.  Maybe, just maybe we can still come together and make the world a better place.

Because in the end, I really am hoping that love does win.  It just has to.

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Outside My Comfort Zone Is Where I Need To Be

Well, it’s over.  The big race is over.

If you want to read the blow by blow of how the day went, you can visit my fitness blog.  It includes all the geeky details that people who routinely attend races and things like that might be interested in.

In the last paragraph of my second post about the day (two 1000+ word entries were enough, right?) that the event was life changing for me.  Overstating?  Maybe.  Then again, maybe not.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had that kind of direction or a goal.  Honestly, since 2004, when I stopped working for Rick Springfield, I’ve never had a situation where I felt that all of my skills and knowledge were brought to bear to make something happen.  And this event pushed me very, very far outside my comfort zone.

Right from the start, I had to make contact with strangers.  This would surprise people who knew me personally, except those closest to me, but I truly hate “cold calling” people I don’t know.  Soliciting them for something, asking them for something.  Is it fear of rejection?  Is it shyness?  I’m not sure, but I’ve never liked it, never felt good at it.  It’s why I like email better than phones.  It’s easier to sound composed and poised when you have the ability to backspace.  I put off making the nearly 40 phone calls and in person visits until I literally had no choice any more.

Then there was working with the people who had previously worked on the race, some of them for the last 20 years.  They were all strangers to me, and most of them significantly older than me.  Again, my insecurity came into play here.  Would they like me?  Would they be willing to share with me how things usually went?  Would they think I was some kind of interloper who was traipsing all over their turf?  I like to be a leader, certainly, but it is usually with a group I have chosen and assembled because I know them and their skillset. Would these people support me or back out, leaving me in a real lurch?

But as the months have gone on, I’ve slowly gotten better at both things.  I got to know my committee members, added a few new ones, and communicated with them regularly (still mostly by email, but I learned who needed to be dealt with on the phone, too).  I’ve gotten better about the cold calling, to the point where I might put it off still but I don’t dread it the way I used to.

There were also things that I really liked doing on this race that I haven’t had a chance to do in a very long time.  I designed a new logo for the race, giving a nod to the events in Newtown.  That was extremely important to me, and since I was in charge, I could do it.  I redesigned the entire brochure, using my graphics skills that have been quietly growing cobwebs.

By the time race day grew near, I had gained a confidence that has been missing from my world for a long time.  My committee not only seemed to be supportive of me, but they seemed to genuinely respect the work I was doing.  These strangers became friends.  They were helpful, friendly, wonderful new additions to my world.

Other than a few minor glitches during the event, it went off without a hitch.  Nearly a thousand people descended on our local park that day.  Nearly 700 of them ran or walked the 5K.  Another 225 kids ran the kids’ race.  We had about 50-75 people volunteer doing everything from putting the after race food and refreshments together, to pointing people in the right direction on the course, to helping with parking.  It was just a tremendous feeling to watch it all come together and know that each of those tiny little details was something I’d made happen.

I can’t wait for next year.

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