This week I am going to Newtown, CT, where I’ve been asked to help design and facilitate the decision-making process on the future of the Sandy Hook Elementary School, where the tragic shooting of 20 students and 6 educators took place nearly four months ago. I decided to take on this assignment for two reasons.

Since the day of the tragedy, the Sandy Hook Elementary School has been closed. Its students were moved to a vacant school building elsewhere in the Newtown community to finish out the school year. At issue for the community now is how to move forward. Do they remodel the existing Sandy Hook School, build a new school on the existing site, or start fresh on an entirely different property. These issues involve both technical and deeply emotional questions.

The request for me to work with Newtown came at a time when I have been (and will be) continually on the road for The Work of Hope national tour, when our national alliances are growing (a new one with American Library Association is just underway), when we launched our first ever Beacon Community in Battle Creek, MI, and when we are strengthening our own internal capacities and operations.

Despite this ongoing work, I felt compelled – perhaps called – to work with Newtown.

First, I see it as a way to make a contribution to the community as it seeks to move forward after this horrific tragedy. I believe this is important work to do. I want to contribute in any way I can.

Second, Newtown now holds within the nation a special place in our hearts and minds. Here is a community that has experienced the unthinkable; and yet, here also is a community that is finding a path forward, amid its grief and pain and sorrow. What I know from talking in-depth with Americans from all walks of life is that we as a nation need to restore belief in ourselves that we can get things done together.

Newtown is helping to lead the way – demonstrating through the Sandy Hook Elementary School decision-making process, and on countless other concerns, what it means for a community to come together and engage on tough issues. And to do it as best they can with a sense of hope and grace.

I will keep you posted.

In the meantime, I know our thoughts and prayers are with the good people of Newtown.

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11 Responses to Why I’m in Newtown, CT

  1. Margaret says:

    Rich, I am so pleased that people in Newtown have connected with you. Those of us in your network will be looking outward to find ways to support your work there and in our own communities. My own slogan will be “Harwood brings “HOPE” to Newtown.”

  2. Annie says:

    Good for you, Rich! I am so happy you are doing this for their community. Keep up the great work!

  3. Rich Harwood says:

    Hi Margaret, thanks so much for your kind words. Newtown is a special community. I’ll keep you posted.

  4. Rich Harwood says:

    Hi Annie, thanks for the reply! Look forward to staying in touch. Be well.

  5. Kim Lockhart says:

    Hi Richard,

    I am so glad that they reached out to you and that you were compelled to say yes. I don’t know what the way forward will be, but I do know it will be better for having had your kindness and wisdom brought to it. This too is the work of hope.

    All good things, k

  6. I’m nearby in Brookfield CT and sending positive aspirations to all of you. If there is anything I can do to help, please ask.

  7. As a Sandy Hook resident, dietitian-nutritionist, and businesswoman I am happy to hear that we are looking for an innovative approach to the future. I hope we integrate wellness and resilience promotion into the area schools. The ERASE-Stress program, or one similar to it, would also encourage posttraumatic growth, the positive changes that occur as the result of using coping behaviors in the aftermath of traumatic life events (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004; Tedeschi & Kilmer, 2005). Building places for children and faculty to have physical activity throughout the day would help de-stress a community that must heal. The only way to heal is to learn and practice healthy behaviors, both mental and physical.

  8. Rich Harwood says:

    Hi Kim, Thanks so much for your comment and kind words. I hope you’re doing well and look forward to our paths crossing soon. Be well.

  9. Rich Harwood says:

    Hi Loretta, Thanks so much for your offer of help. So many people, like you, have sought to support Newtown. For me, it shows the generosity of spirit that makes our country strong and resilient. It’s also that spirit that the Institute seeks to tap into in all our work – and which I consistently hear Americans from all walks of life wanting to get back to. Thanks again. Be well.

  10. Rich Harwood says:

    Hi Patricia, Thanks for your comment. I think the guiding principles that the Task Force adopted at their last meeting on Friday speaks to some of what you wrote. And I have come to know from listening to those elected officials, and hearing comments from the community, that this is on the minds of people. One of the things I have been struck by in Newtown is the community’s emphasis on healing. Perhaps our paths will cross over the coming weeks. Be well. Take care.

  11. I would like to talk to you about what I / We can offer at PolycreteUSA. I was raised in a loving tight community called Newtown. Even though I now live in VA. Newtown will always be my home. I lived on Main st accross from the Edmond town hall Next to Honans

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