One Year Later: Lessons from Sandy Hook
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The anniversary of the Newtown shootings is also the marker of when hordes of national and international media descended on a small suburban town, clogging the streets, crowding local shops and setting up camp outside every funeral. There’s a need to get information out so something can be gained from these awful events, says Hartford Courant reporter Alaine Griffin, but she understands that their presence can be intrusive. She and Josh Kovner were tasked with investigating shooter Adam Lanza, which culminated in a series that ran on PBS.
Reporters seek to answer the “why” and the “how,” she says. “It’s important for us to understand what drove Adam Lanza to do such a horrific thing.” She quotes philosopher George Santayana: “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Since then, laws have been passed to restrict crime scene photos and recordings from that day and other horrific crimes.
Without all the information, it’s hard to learn from what happened, says Rich Hanley, associate professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University. He believes that even though legislators fear that crime scene photos and recordings will be posted on the Internet or used in inappropriate ways if released, it doesn’t change the fact that the public ought to have access to such evidence. “Conclusions can be drawn from obviously having partial information, but better conclusions can be drawn from full information,” he says.
Twelve months after a tragedy that no one will ever forget, lessons have certainly been learned, but trying to apply it in practical terms continues to be a challenge for all involved, especially those closest to it.
Though residents may have felt as though Newtown would buckle under the gravity of what occurred on Dec. 14, Llodra says the town is “so much more.” “We’re a good and kind place, and I think the event tapped into that,” she says. “There’s strength to our commitment that we’ll continue to strive and grow into the future, and we will integrate this awful thing into who we are in the best possible way.”