The gripping solemnity of the Sandy Hook Memorial

A permanent display honours the 20 children and six adults killed in the Connecticut school shooting on December 14, 2012

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Before walking down the winding gravel path to the Sandy Hook Memorial, visitors stop to read a plaque inscribed with Barack Obama's remarks in Newtown, Connecticut, 10 years ago.

“All across this land of ours, we have wept with you,” the inscription reads.

Encased within this stone block are the incinerated remains of teddy bears, photos, letters, flowers and other spontaneous memorials that were laid in tribute throughout the town in the days after 20 children and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Dedicated last month, the memorial is a place of quiet reflection and reverence for the victims of the December 14, 2012 shooting.

It is tucked inside a woodland area, adjacent to the new Sandy Hook Elementary campus.

A water fountain is placed at the centre of the memorial. Inside the fountain sits a fledgling sycamore tree, which the designers say symbolises the young age of the victims. The reclaiming of innocence.

The water swirls anti-clockwise. The soft current pushes against the edge of the granite as it spirals towards the sycamore.

The perimeter of its granite basin is segmented into 26 names.

Two bouquets of red roses lay between the names of Emilie Parker and Anne Marie Murphy.

Twelve lightly-shaded purple roses — in three bunches of four — are placed on the name of Grace McDonnell. A single red rose is placed at the foot of her marking.

A man, deep in contemplation, sits at one of the benches surrounding the fountain.

As the water swirls around the sycamore, so, too, do those who come to this place to reflect and to grieve. The tree, the nexus within the natural multilevel topography of the landscape, draws in everyone who visits the memorial.

Soft breezes ripple through the bare trees in the surrounding woodland and meadows. These trees and flowers, as in all of Connecticut, were once stuffed with dazzling greens in the summer, and burnt reds and golden yellows in the autumn.

Soon, New England snowfall will blanket this space. And then, when spring arrives, in a living display of the transformation of colour, this dynamic tapestry again will be bejewelled with fresh buds and blossoms.

A dusting of snow blankets the Sandy Hook Memorial in Newtown, Connecticut. AP

Today, as crisp winter air brushes against skin, the steady shuffling of feet swirls from the winding outskirts of the woodland and meadows towards the cobblestone.

Under the glistening sun, shadows of passers-by linger above each of the 26 names engraved in the stone wall surrounding the water fountain.

It is these names to whom this memorial is offered. In this bucolic, lush surrounding that confronts the tragic past.

The whole of America seemed to mourn on December 14, 2012, and in the weeks that followed. A tragedy that tore through the fabric of the nation. One that stripped all the colour, all of the life and sense, out of this world.

Even the airwaves were filled with a mournful silence.

Teddy bears, photos, letters and tributes from spontenous memorials - such as this one on December 18, 2012 - in the days after the Sandy Hook shooting made up the 'sacred soil' of the Sandy Hook Memorial. AFP

Here, at the memorial, it is silent again today. A silence wrapped in everlasting solemnity.

Save for the deliberate shuffling of feet, the current’s gentle rocking against the basin is all that can be heard.

Visitors are encouraged to place on the water a candle or a flower, a bridge from the living to the deceased.

Wrapped around this basin, our eyes rest on the names of those whose lives were lost a decade ago.

Their names are Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel D’Avino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Dawn Hochsprung, Dylan Hockley, Madeleine Hsu, Catherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, Ana Marquez-Greene, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Anne Marie Murphy, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Leigh Soto, Benjamin Wheeler and Allison Wyatt.

Two rocks are placed beside the name of Noah Pozner, one of the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, at the Sandy Hook Memorial in Newtown, Connecticut. The National
Updated: December 14, 2022, 7:53 AM
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