Parents, teachers and local leaders gathered in Newtown, Connecticut on Sunday night to discuss the fate of Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 first-graders and six adults were gunned down on December 14. They met in the Newtown High School auditorium for the first of several meetings about the fate of the building. According to The New York Times, "Opinions varied sharply about whether to reopen the school, renovate it, turn it into a shrine or a park, or raze it."
Though it's been a month since the shootings, it's still hard to hear from parents of the students, who made heartbreaking cases both for demolishing the school and for saving it. "I cannot ask my son or any of the people at the school to ever walk back into that building, and he has asked to never go back," said Stephanie Carson, whose son was in the school during the shooting. "I know that there are children who were there who have said they would like to go back to Sandy Hook. However, the reality is we have to be so careful. Even walking down the halls, the children become so scared at any unusual sound. I don't see how it would be possible."
Others are more defiant. "I have two children who had everything taken from them," said Audrey Bart who also had children in the school during the tragedy. "The Sandy Hook Elementary School is their school. It is not the world's school. It is not Newtown's school. We cannot pretend it never happened, but I am not prepared to ask my children to run and hide. You can't take away their school." A retired police office and Sandy Hook alum took the sentiment a stage further. "To tear it down completely would be like saying to evil, 'You've won,'" said Fran Bresson.
As the press is quick to point out, different communities have dealt with the sites of school shootings in different ways. Columbine High School is still standing, though the library where most of the victims died was replaced with an atrium. Virginia Tech converted one of the classrooms where the 2007 shooting took place into a peace studies and violence prevention center. An Amish community in Pennsylvania tore down a high school where five girls were killed in 2006 and built a new one nearby.
The Newtown government said that no matter what they decide to do with Sandy Hook, it will take months for the city to transform the site. They're starting the conversation now in order to come to an agreement on a final plan by March. Inevitably, though, it sounds like whatever the town decides on, there will be a number of unhappy parents and citizens. The Sandy Hook saga has never been a happy one, though. At this point, the survivors are just doing the best they can with what they have left.