This morning began with a very upsetting bit of news. I’d been mercifully away from the U.S. news for a few days, having been in England. As a cancer research advocate, I’d had the honor of serving as a panel speaker during a joint European Medicine Agency (EMA)/Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative (CTTI) session in London. ( But more on that in a future blog …)
While I was away, it turned out that we also had trouble with our cable TV. So this morning, while still bleary-eyed from jet lag, I talked to the cable company, managed to get the snafu resolved without too much frustration, and then turned on the TV to catch up with the news while having my morning coffee … and was immediately upset by the very first news item I heard. Like many of you, I suspect, I find most of today’s news infuriating, sad, or tragic. But this news item was personally upsetting to me and undoubtedly to many in my Newtown community: I learned that the Sandy Hook 911 tapes were released today, following a ruling by a Connecticut state judge: i.e., just 10 days before the “one-year anniversary” of the tragic events that occurred here in Newtown on December 14, 2012. And the fact is that most of us here have been absolutely dreading the arrival of 12/14, fearing the repeated onslaught of media, the horrifying memories that remain all too raw, and the renewed grief for all those who have been irrevocably affected by this terrible tragedy.
I almost always agree with the sentiments of Newtown’s First Selectman, Pat Llodra–and that’s the case once again. In response to the news that the tapes were being released today, she stated that this would only serve “to create a new layer of pain for many in the Newtown community.” Some folks throughout the country have argued that releasing the tapes to the AP would be a matter for the “public good.” And the judge who ruled to release the tapes noted that doing so could help by “showing the professionalism of the first responders and pointing to anything that might be done differently in future emergencies.” But my own response to that is, Was the professionalism of the first responders ever in doubt? If so, I’d find that absolutely shocking, since to a person, I’ve heard nothing but a world of respect, awe, and admiration for the first responders who served the people of Newtown and Sandy Hook that day. And “what might be done differently”-–or, said another way, what should be changed? The official investigation examined these questions up, down, and sideways, as it should have: those few questions that could be answered were, and the investigation is now closed. And most would agree that following the events of that terrible day, in pondering the imponderable, our towns, cities, states, and federal government–our society overall–has already been profoundly changed in countless ways (for better or worse or both?), whether looking at the subject and tenor of our ongoing national conversation on violence, increased spending in the last year on mental health in most states and implementation of measures to make treatment more accessible for children and adults with mental illness, additional security changes put into place, new gun-control legislation proposed, and on and on and on.
So what is there to gain by listening to these horrific events as they unfold, by graphically hearing the very voices of those who lived–or tragically, did not live–through them? As a Newtown resident who loves my community, I would argue, Nothing, except for renewed pain and heartbreak.
To read the eloquent words of Pat Llodra in response to the release of the 911 tapes, simply click here: PERSONAL REACTION TO THE RELEASE OF THE 911 TAPES – December 4, 2013; Pat’s Blog: One Newtown.
Before the 911 tapes were released, Pat reflected on how those in our Newtown community will be handling the arrival of December 14th: “Our community is choosing to remember and honor those who lost their lives in that awful tragedy in ways that are quiet, personal and respectful — centered on the themes of kindness, love and service to others.” My hope is that everyone will understand and honor Pat’s thoughts and wishes for our Newtown community.