When I was received the email from Tantor Audio with this month’s review titles, the audiobook version of Newtown: An American Tragedy made my heart stop. The subtitle is apt, because it truly has been an American Tragedy, as parents, sisters, teachers, tried to figure out how something this horrific could happen.
But you see, the tragedy hit closer to home for me. Just two years earlier, my family and I moved back to Texas from Newtown, which will always be one of my adopted hometowns, the place my daughter remembers growing up, since she lived there from the age of 6 – 12. She and my son both went to Sandy Hook School, and if we hadn’t moved, Kyle would have been there in one of the 3rd grade classrooms that day.
I was curious. I sort of wanted to know some more of the details. I probably already knew more than most people because of information that I had received from townspeople. I think that I was mostly curious to see how my school was portrayed. I am still seeking closure. You know the affinity you have with your child’s school. That was my daughter’s school, and where my son started school. I sent him off to Kindergarten and was glad for him to go there. We loved it.
As I listened to the audiobook, it was personal for me. I’ve attended the gingerbread house parties that were mentioned throughout the book that were supposed to take place on that day 12/14/12. I know a majority of the teachers and staff mentioned in the book. My children either had them as teachers or I knew them as my role as a regular library volunteer. I know the layout of the school. My children both had classes in the very rooms that the killer entered. Unfortunately, I knew several of the victims as well.
That day last year friends called me, knowing that was my home and my children’s former school. When acquaintances found out, they’d ask, “Did you know any of the victims?” My first thought was, “Of course. My son’s classmates, the people who attended his birthday parties and those with whom he played baseball were all there at school the day a madman shot his way into school.” That was my thought. They were all victims. In addition to being there, hearing it, experiencing the fear that no one should have to experience, much less an innocent child, they had to deal with the death of loved ones: their principal, perhaps a former teacher or a sibling’s teacher, and most tragically many of them lost former classmates or teammates or their friends’ siblings. It’s unspeakable. Listening to the account underscored that my original gut reaction was correct, and my heart still goes out to them.
The Newtown that author Matthew Lysiak, who moved there for almost a year to continue investigating the story for the book, describes is my Newtown. It’s a town that stuck together and has continued to. I was glad to hear that in the pages. This is not a tell-all, and I was glad about that too. It really is the story of the town — the everyday events leading up to the massacre and how the leaders and community responded. Varied reports are compiled and additional interviews were given. But because the town has stayed unified and sought to protect the families most affected, it’s not a sensational story. It’s factual, even though so many of the facts are still murky.
There is some information that I did not know about the events of that day. There are also still many questions left unanswered, since the shooter wiped his computer clean. But more information about his past problems and online activity in recent years was illuminating.
Reading this book isn’t going to be for everyone. I wanted to because it is my home and people I love were there and are still there. But I am also interested because unfortunately this is a sociological issue of our day. Lysiak touches on that, but leaves conclusions to the reader. I had tried to listen to Columbine many years ago, and it was harder for me. Those shooters left behind journals and much more information, and listening to their hateful thoughts and words was really tough.
NOTES ON THE AUDIOBOOK:
Adam Verner reads it well. I’m not sure if reading it or listening to it would be harder, but this format worked for me. I think it might have been easier, because I tend to listen to audiobooks when I’m doing chores around the house, so I was somewhat distracted in a good way.