Newtown natives living in Beaufort County call shooting surreal

astice@islandpacket.comDecember 17, 2012 

  • Several funds have been established to show support for victims of the shootings in Newtown, Conn. Some families of victims are also setting up their own funds or asking for memorial contributions to be made to charities or scholarship funds.

  • My Sandy Hook Family Fund: Parents of children who survived and other local people set up this fund to help with funerals and ongoing living expenses such as food, mortgage payments, day care, insurance and fuel. Donations can be made at everribbon.com/ribbon/view/10076 or addressed to "My Sandy Hook Family Fund" at Union Savings Bank, 1 Commerce Drive, Newtown, CT 06470.
  • Sandy Hook School Support Fund: Set up by the United Way of Western Connecticut and the Newtown Savings Bank, this fund provides support services including day and night walk-in hours at the Newtown Youth and Family Services Counseling Center. Donations can be made at uwwesternct.org or addressed to "Sandy Hook School Support Fund" at Newtown Savings Bank, 39 Main St., Newtown, CT 06470.

    Source: Reuters

Wendy Kosloff has been lying awake at night in Bluffton, wandering the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary in her mind.

She imagines the front door and the lobby, the principal's office and the hall where kindergarten classrooms are filled with pint-sized tables and chairs.

Kosloff, a Newtown native, used to sit in those chairs.

"All I can think about is the children trapped in there," she said.

Kosloff, who works for Alliance Island Realty on Hilton Head Island after moving to the area 10 years ago, described the town where she grew up as a "Norman Rockwell painting."

That image was shattered Friday when 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into the elementary school Kosloff once attended and opened fire, killing 20 children and six adults before shooting himself.

The tragedy is surreal to Kosloff, who now sees familiar sights from home all over the news. President Barack Obama spoke at a vigil Sunday from the auditorium of Newtown High School, where Kosloff graduated in 1982. Shannon Thompson, a sales executive at Hampton Lake who grew up in the neighboring town of Bethel, moved to Newtown when she married and was planning to start a family.

"I moved to Newtown for the schools," Thompson said. "It was probably one of the safest places you could live.

"Having lived there, it's just a different level of heartbreak," she said.

But as stories of heroism emerge -- how first-grade teacher Victoria Soto sacrificed herself to save her students; how principal Dawn Hochsprung died while rushing the gunman -- Kosloff said she has never been more proud of Newtown.

A comment by Newtown first selectwoman Pat Llodra, whose son was Kosloff's peer, hit home: "It is a defining moment for our town, but it does not define us."

Kosloff said she has to believe the 26 deaths won't be in vain. She hopes the tragedy will sound the alarm for increased awareness of mental-health issues, gun control and renewed appreciation for teachers.

"They're the most underappreciated and probably underpaid individuals out there, yet they would put themselves in harm's way for our children," she said.

On Monday, Kosloff put on her school colors -- green and white -- and pulled out her high school class ring.

When she dropped her 7-year-old son off at Red Cedar Elementary in the morning for school, she got out of the car to give his teacher a hug.

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