GOSHEN — Just behind Clare Krabill’s old hometown house is a dirt road that goes from one hill to another, until you reach “this one big hill that’s covered in monstrous, larger-than-car boulders;” and from the very tip of the larger boulders you can see hills all around, stretching for miles and miles.
“It’s just really beautiful,” she said. “It was a great place to grow up.”
A little more than a week ago, every time someone asked her where she was from she tried her best to explain it. Now, she said, anyone can make the connection.
“They’ll say ‘Oh, it’s that place where all those people were killed.’”
Krabill, director of Goshen’s Center for Healing and Hope, was born and raised in Newtown, Conn. Her last visit in the summer of 2011 proved to her that her town was much the same as she remembered growing up. The picturesque town still had the same old ice cream shop she loved to go to as a child.
The town of more than 25,000 people is a typical New England town, she said: quiet, surrounded by forest, historical buildings and privately owned restaurants.
In many ways, “it’s so much like so many other communities,” she said.
But what makes Newtown stand out now is a tragedy that will mark its residents and anyone who once visited the quiet town.
On Dec. 14, 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 26 people in a shooting rampage before taking his own life.
Krabill has been in communication with some of the people she knows from Newtown, particularly a friend who works in a church there.
“She talked about how quiet everything was; there was no noise,” she said. “She talks about how teachers have to be teachers. The churches need to continue with their service, but there’s this horrible loss and you’re trying to wrap your mind around all this violence that’s occurred.”
Sympathy poured from the entire country, and more so after it became known that 20 of the victims were children ages 6 and 7. Though shaken, and in some ways changed, Krabill is confident much about the small town will stay the same.
“The children have been changed, the families have been changed and really everyone in the community,” she said. “But Newtown is still going to be the same beautiful small, quaint, quiet town, made up of wonderful community people like here in Goshen.”
The fact that Newtown is where she grew up is not the only link Krabill has to the incident. She is also the mother of six children. In her own way, she shares the pain every parent would if they lost a child.
“There’s not a parent alive that doesn’t stop and imagine what would that be like if that was their child.”
The night before the shooting, a chorus composed of Sandy Hook fourth-graders sang for a Christmas concert. In a video that has been circulating around Krabill’s friend circle, children dressed in white are seen holding candles and singing. The video, Krabill said, reflects what her hometown is really about.
“It makes me sad that people will remember Newtown for this episode of violence,” she said. “I hope that people know that it’s a quiet, loving, peaceful, fun community.”