I have, throughout my life, moved a great deal. I never claim any one place as a “Hometown”, and most of the time, when people ask where I'm from, I just wave my hand in a vague way and say “East Coast, U.S.” and leave it at that. I have, very likely, never said Connecticut. But every time I drive on 84, I start hitting exits, and I remember parties that happened here, or friends that lived there. I remember summer jobs and cheap gas stations and diners and ice cream shops, and I feel like I am coming home. And so, even though I can not claim Newtown, I still feel connected to it enough that I want to say this.
My family moved to Newtown the summer before I entered ninth grade. I was nerdy, and geeky, and weird, and I had spent my middle school career being as quiet as possible, hoping that no one would notice. But already in that first year in Newtown, I met some other nerdy, geeky people. We made a Rube Goldberg machine, and there were enough other weird, nerdy folks to make a competition. When I got to Newtown high, I found a school that revered its drama club as highly as its football team- the days before the musical opened had the same high stress fun as those before homecoming. There was a role playing club, and a fantastic art department, and the ability to sign up for classes at the local college if you wanted more variety in credits. The community embraced the nerdy, the geeky, the weird. Columbine happened while I was in high school, and we, as children ourselves, would joke that there was no way it could happen in Newtown, not because we were a sleepy little suburb, but because the goths were too damned happy. I know, as an adult, that none of that has anything to do with a mentally disturbed young man who clearly would have needed more direct help than some after school singing lessons. Knowing, of course, does not make these events less of a shock. I can not even begin to fathom the emotions experienced by those who truly are part of the community, much less those directly involved. Still, here is my toast to the town that taught me it was ok to be different.