Newtown trying ‘very hard’ to move on: resident

Mari Wassmann-McIlrath enjoying a wooded park in Newtown

By Cristina DC Pastor

Newtown in Connecticut is in a “lot of pain” right now, declared Mari Wassmann-McIlrath, 29, a long-time resident.

Mari, who works as a medical assistant in neighboring Danbury town, has been living in Newtown since she was adopted from the Philippines at age 3. In this quiet little corner of New England, she lives with her parents. She went to St. Rose Catholic School and played with children of doctors and Wall Street types, who comprise the sprawling, upscale community. Most residential houses are at least one-acre properties.

“Newtown is not a very big town, but it spills into many different sections of (nearby towns); it’s all woods,” she said, trying to capture a snapshot of an obscure borough that was suddenly thrust into the international news when a gunman opened fire at the Sandy Hook elementary school, killing 20 first-graders and six school officials and staffers.

On the day Adam Lanza killed 28 people – including his own mother — Mari was at work at a doctor’s office.

“I was in disbelief. I was shocked. I ended up leaving early,” she recounted to The FilAm. She left the office around noontime, leaving behind crying co-workers. She was crying too, but did it privately.

She found her neighborhood crawling with police cars, news vans and investigators in FBI vests. “I live around the corner from Sandy Hook, a couple of streets away,” she said. She had to find different routes to be able to get home. It was “absolute chaos.”

“I was shocked; it didn’t seem real,” she added.

She found her mother, a retired registered nurse, crying. Mari said her mother knew two of the kids who lost their lives, including one who is a special-needs child. (For privacy reasons, The FilAm will not mention the child’s name in this article.)

“My mom was absolutely devastated,” said Mari. “She knows some of the kids; she knows their parents very well. She is crying every day.”

Newtown – with a population of anywhere from 50,000 to 60,000, according to reports – is enveloped in “complete sadness,” said Mari. All churches are open the entire week offering a place for people seeking solace. Restaurants are mostly closed as people are in no mood for celebrating and also because the police blockades are making it difficult for residents to get around.

“I walked around the school and saw so many flowers and teddy bears everywhere, and lots of pictures of children,” she said.

Mari echoed the conventional wisdom about the need to tighten gun laws.

“I understand some people are trustworthy with them, but when they get into hands of the wrong person, anything can happen,” she reasoned. In the same breath, she noted that the tragedy was caused by guns that are legally acquired. The guns used by Lanza were owned and registered to his mother, Nancy.

Mari said her quiet town is seeing a lot of foreign journalists as well. But what is especially unnerving is the possibility of “hate groups” descending on Newtown and celebrating what they tout to be a ‘work of God.’

“So far they haven’t showed up, but we’re ready (for them),” Mari said.

She said the town is feeling a little bit inconvenienced by the swarm of journalists and police officers, but is trying to be more understanding.

“The whole town is trying very hard to move on,” she said.

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