By Sofia Smallstorm
Updated May 29, 2014 @ 5:45PM w/ two more pics.
On a brief trip to the East Coast in May 2014, I was able to get to Newtown for a few hours. (Imagine that!) Where would anyone go first, now that the school is gone, but the famous Sandy Hook Firehouse? It was a very sunny day and, walking down the road with my little camera in hand, I was surprised to see a “Slow School Zone” sign still posted on Riverside Drive.
(Image Credit: Connecticut Post)
As I reached the firehouse, guarded by a vibrant No Trespassing sign, I was surprised to see it open with someone sitting outside. Only a few minutes before, while driving past, it had been closed.
Keeping to my side of the street, I raised my camera to take a picture. The kind fireman waved at me and invited me to come closer. I did, and I was invited to take a tour. Photography was not a problem, I was assured by the very nice fireman.
I asked the fireman if he had been present on that very famous day, and he said yes. He told me he had not known any of the children but he did know “one of the women,” although this turned out to be “the secretary” (not one of the victims) and he could not remember her name. I asked if he had seen children evacuated from the school, and he said he had indeed seen children that day. Because the school is so close, “they walked,” he told me. See the school entrance below (click to enlarge).
Below is another photo of the school entrance; behind the gate you can see a construction fence (click to enlarge). The distance is only a few hundred feet. Things are very close together in Sandy Hook!
The famous Rosen house, for instance, is right next to the firehouse.
This is Gene Rosen’s lawn and the asphalt of the firehouse lot. The children who appeared on Gene Rosen’s lawn would have had to access it from this low wall next to the firehouse.
Inside the firehouse, the lovely fireman allowed me to take my fill of pictures. Here is their fire gear:
It’s fun to take pictures of firetrucks, I found out!
I asked the fireman if they had a kitchen where they made meals for each other. He said absolutely, yes, and took me right in. I asked him who did the shopping and he said there are a couple of guys who do just that (along with firefighting, I presume).
Besides the spiffy kitchen, there is also a firehouse bar. The nice fireman wanted me very much to observe the beauty and niftiness of the bar itself, which is made from a firetruck.
The next place he took me to was the meeting room. It was prepared for a meeting, he pointed out, with placards on the tables. It too had a piece of a firetruck on prominent display. (Click photo to enlarge.)
From the window of the meeting room, the friendly fireman pointed out the Pavilion. I believe he told me many weddings had taken place there. To me, this Pavilion was the “firehouse shed,” but it is evidently more important than being just a simple shed. Photographed through the meeting room window (click to enlarge):
Next I was shown a beautiful large wooden case that was set into a wall and would eventually be filled with patches and mementos. This was a gift from the Virginia Beach Fire Department, made specially for the firehouse at Sandy Hook. My friendly fireman told me a truck from VBFD had pulled up outside to deliver it one day. I could not take a picture of the entire case as it was so big, but here is a portion that has been filled:
Outside again, the nice fireman wanted me to take a picture of the famous “Hitch Your Wagon to a Star” plaque. I did so and also took one of the stars on the roof, which he told me were made possible by the deputy fire chief’s brother. We both remarked that it was odd that there were only 26 stars (20 small ones for the children and 6 large ones for the adults) and none for Nancy and Adam Lanza.
The 26 stars for each Sandy Hook school victim are also arranged on a green flag outside the firehouse:
I said goodbye to the fireman, thanking him profusely for his courtesy, and walked up the road where I shot a few more photos of the Rosen house and a heart-shaped memorial that remains in place today.
Newtown has a lot of cemeteries, I am told, and here is one on Riverside Drive in Sandy Hook (click to enlarge):
In the village of Sandy Hook (“downtown”), there are lots of empty storefronts:
Here I am in front of a foresaken karate studio with dusty trophies in the window:
While I was in the village, a large number of school buses drove by, all in a line. The first few had high-schoolers, followed by buses with elementary-school children. I saw about 13 to 15 buses, and the odd thing was that they contained very few children — as little as three to as many as six or eight, but no more. Normally school buses are packed with boisterous kids. Another oddity was that the children in these buses waved from the windows, turning and continuing to wave as the buses moved on. For the sake of privacy, I did not take pictures of the waving children.
We know that the Sandy Hook school building has been demolished, and we heard that the children who attended Sandy Hook Elementary were moved to an empty school building in the nearby town of Monroe, CT while a brand new Sandy Hook school is being built. The road to Monroe from Newtown is long and windy, with woods on each side. The Chalk Hill Middle School (temporary relocation site) is next to another Monroe school:
The Jockey Hollow School seemed quite active, with children on the playground, school buses parked outside, and even a line of parents waiting at one of the doors.
But the Sandy Hook school …? This is what you see (click to enlarge):
Closely guarded, the entrance patrolled. Everyone going in was stopped and had to answer to the police.
A van with blacked-out windows was leaving the school grounds (click to enlarge):
A sign for the Chalk Hill Nature Trail points toward the Sandy Hook school. The policeman stationed at the school entrance angrily told us the trail was behind the school and no one could access it until after school hours, or 4 o’clock. He was not a friendly policeman.
As was the case with the old Sandy Hook school site, there are houses just behind the Chalk Hill school. Whose houses are these, so close to such a protected premises?
Back to Sandy Hook, here is Crestwood Drive from Google maps:
Dotted with six houses, the last driveway looks like this:
And there was a vanity plate on this car parked at one of the homes:
A little bit of searching yields that this is the name of a popular Newtown figure, Jack Shpunt (read more here). Jack is a coach and a humanitarian, big into benefits and charities and sports for kids. His name is also, coincidentally, an acronym of sorts for the post-event slogans, Sandy Hook Promise / United Newtown!
And that concludes this photo essay of my little venture … Oops, I almost forgot! The Lanza house on Yogananda Street:
And … of all weird things, the mailbox stuffed with newspapers! Why there continues to be delivery to this famous house today, I’m not sure …
Not to be missed: The bee weathervane on the roof of the Newtown Bee building:
And this decal on a car in the parking lot, which does not reflect the popular “forgiveness” theme:
And that concludes this photo essay of my little venture …
Click the image below to see my “Unraveling Sandy Hook” talk on YouTube.
This article first appeared at aboutthesky.com. It is republished here with permission.