Connecticut under the lens

newtownyucatanThe good people of Connecticut may not know much about Yucatán, but the good people of Yucatán are learning a lot about us.

On Friday morning, when I was expecting a fairly easy day in the newsroom, word came in of a school shooting about 30 minute up Route 25, in Newtown. I instantly, instinctively rebuffed reality. It’s just some shots fired, I told myself. In Newtown, one of our state’s most beloved small towns? This can’t be. I continued planning a gripping front-pager about service-sector employment levels.

Then, we learn two people have been sent to Danbury Hospital. Thank God! Just two people hurt, I assume. Then the news gets progressively worse over the next few hours. Twelve shot. Twenty shot, then 26, 28, mostly tiny children, all but one dead.

We are handed (and repeat) many more false facts and red herrings over the next 48 hours. Websites have turned newspapers into live 24/7 broadcasters, no different than the ABC affiliate that shares part of our newsroom. We don’t have the luxury of a single daily deadline to weigh the facts.

Social media is a source of crackpot speculation, cruel hoaxes and sanctimony. And even though the police are extremely cautious as they examine multiple crime scenes, trying to find surviving witnesses, what little they tell us is often incorrect. Later, those same police guard the homes of victims’ families, partly to protect them from prying and insensitive reporters who have arrived from not just our newspapers, but from all corners of the globe. One woman, mourning her sister, urges others to freeze out reporters, whose presence admittedly becomes overbearing. Gathering information is slow going and problematic.

As someone who is orchestrating a gradual transition from Fairfield County to Yucatán, these days I can no longer find escape by clicking my web browser bookmarks filed in the “Mérida” folder. Diario’s front page is tasked with introducing Mérida to distant Connecticut. My two worlds have collided and the Sandy Hook massacre is probably the first thing some expats and most native Meridanos will have learned about the place I come from.

This tragedy invites sweeping generalizations about gun-toting Americans, and it’s true that we are awash in easily obtained weaponry. But our increasingly complex country defies cowboy stereotypes. Otherwise peaceful and relatively homogenous, Newtown is what you might think every New England town looks like if you’ve seen New England only in the movies. Historic, verdant, down to earth, but now under a dark cloud of despair.

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  1. Jose Vieira Arruda says:

    Dear Lee,

    Thanks for writing about this most horrendous event… here in Montreal we still remember too well the massacre of Dawson College (September 13th, 2006). Our prayers are with the families of the beautiful children and the adults whose lives were taken away. Our prayers are with all Americans who stand for a society that is fire-arms free, a society where conflicts (personal and collective) are solved by dialogue and negotiation, forgiveness and reconciliation, compassion and healing and never, never, violence and death.

    All the best my friend.


  2. Lee, my heart goes out to you and your neighbors. This is a terrible thing… and at Christmas of all times. Our world is increasingly violent and we feel so impotent… But now more than ever, we should not sit by and meekly “take it.” I applaud you for writing about the tragedy and making people aware. A mass country-wide grass-roots movement in the US would make the legislators take notice. Everyone should write to their congressman and tell them that gun laws HAVE to be modified. Yes your constitution gives you the right to carry arms but the founding fathers were not talking about assault weapons. I believe they would be horrified if they knew what the inclusion of their statement in the Bill of Rights had led to what we see today.

    • We also need to take better care of mentally ill people — and certainly not take them to shooting ranges, as Adam’s mother did. What a timebomb waiting to go off.

  3. Unfortunately, this is an American truth: We are “awash in easily obtained weaponry”. There are 90 guns to every 100 people in this country. The mother of this mentally ill individual, a kindergarten teacher, owned 5 guns including a 9mm Glock which was used to gun down her entire classroom of 5 year old children in a matter of seconds. The madness that is sweeping this nation has arrived to our own back yard of bucolic Connecticut. “One failed attempt at a shoe bomb and we all take our shoes off at the airport. 31 school shootings since Columbine and no change in our regulation of guns”. When is enough enough?

  4. You’ve put into words what others have difficulty expressing. As the news starting coming in, I prayed they had it wrong.

    While our two countries may be perceived as lawless and cruel, we share a much greater trait. The ablilty to care for each other, respect one another and when necessary, grieve for each other.

    • I really hadn’t intended to write about this. What could I say that hadn’t been said, and I didn’t want to seem narcissistic. But the feeling of Yucatan looking back at my community, after years of me gazing down at Yucatan, was striking.

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