Remembering Newtown for Social Justice Week
Josh Falcone – Editor-in-Chief and Dylan Haviland – Managing Editor
Kim Snyder’s film “Newtown” explored the lives of the individuals, community and country that were affected by the Sandy Hook Tragedy four years ago. The camera lens captured the parents and residents who recounted the past and are dealing with the present.
The hour and half long film was screened on Nov. 10 in front of an audience packed with students and visitors in the Lyman Center for the Performing Arts.
“I thought [the movie] was awesome, very moving,” said Chloe Hudd, a senior and special education major. “You know you saw it in the news and everything but you never really heard from the families so I think it was nice to get their perspective.”
The film interviewed several parents and siblings of the children that were lost in the tragedy. Through long discussions and following them around in their daily lives, Snyder built an intimate portrayal of Newtown.
“We set out to make the film not as an issue film; the film really evolved out of a collaborative exploration with those who were courageous enough to engage in this long form documentary as different kinds of opportunities than the short form news,” said Snyder.
President Joe Bertolino, who was unable to attend the event, spoke to the audience via a video presentation.
“Almost four years ago the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School shocked our state and indeed our nation,” said Bertolino. “And as many of you know three of our alumni and one of our graduate students were lost on that terrible day. Their last actions aimed at protecting the children in their care.”
The three alumni were the Dawn Lafferty, Anne Marie Murphy and Mary Sherlach. The graduate student and teacher was Victoria Soto.
Students like Hudd still feel the effects of the tragedy, she herself went with a group to support a classmate who knew a family that lost a child.
“I’m going to school to be a teacher so hearing about what the educators did in the buildings really hit home with me,” Hudd said.
After the screening finished, there was a panel discussion made up of Snyder, David Wheeler, father of victim Ben Wheeler, Dr. Alan Brown, Criminologist and Assistant Professor of Sociology at Southern, and Susan R. Kelley, director of children’s policy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness as well as Connecticut director for the Alliance for Children’s Mental Health, which answered audience questions.
When asked what the country as a whole can do about gun violence after the recent election results, Wheeler said that the answer has not changed and is the same as before the tragedy in Newtown occurred.
“Get engaged, be involved, find someplace no matter how close to the center of your concentric circle at the middle of your life of which is you,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler implored the audience to find the place where they felt comfortable being engaged in the conversations that can make a difference. Wheeler also said that there needs to be awareness.
“We have to be very aware and pay attention to what is going on in Washington and in the state capitals,” he said, “and be aware of what is happening regarding policies and legislations in the areas of your interest.”
Snyder echoed Wheeler’s sentiments, adding what she hoped could be taken from the film.
“The conversation has changed and hopefully what we take from this film is that it is about consciousness shifting, it is about behavioral change,” Snyder said. “It is about long term change especially as David said, for future generations and really this is your issue, and needs to be.”
According to Snyder, 90 percent of people in the United States think that something is wrong and that something needs to change.
“So we hope that the film can lift up voices like law enforcement, like doctors, clergy,” she said. “Those voices are becoming louder and louder. As David said, it may take time but it is imperative, I think that there is a grassroots movement.”
Snyder also said that those that wish to see change cannot just accept an impasse of the United States Congress.
“I think it is a movement I think it is about breaking beyond this failed political discourse.”
Photo Courtesy – Brokk Tollefson