August 5, 2016

End of New England Trip


Hi Friends!

Lots of colors in this photo here, so let me break it down for you simply. Black isn’t getting done this trip, red needs to be done, blue has been done. So, we got a lot done this trip! One more site to go tomorrow in DC if they will let us photograph it. Cross your fingers!

We left Boston and headed up to Wakefield first. There wasn’t anyone to get permission from that owned the building (it was multiple businesses), so we did it anyways with a non-descript shot of the building. A guy walking by looked at us funny because of the pillows, but oh well! 😛 Got it done.

Then we drove a while (took a detour to Rhode Island because why not?) and got to Manchester, CT. Beautiful experience here. A guy named Steve, who I believe is the boss, came out and met us. We told him what I am doing and he decided to walk us to the memorial for the victims that was outside of their company building in the woods right next to it. As we walked, he spoke to us about the memorial and the event. Apparently he was one of the survivors of the shooting. One of the other bosses protected him from being killed, but he was killed instead. This was another case of an angry employee that was fired or asked to resign and then went on a shooting spree.

This day also happened to be the day before the anniversary of the shooting. I didn’t even realize that when we came, but I feel like it made it all the more meaningful of a visit. There were people setting up a tent for a remembrance event the next day.

We walked into the woods where the memorial is. It was so quiet in there. Very sombering. A beautiful memorial that seemed very personalized to each of the victims. Steve said he comes out there sometimes when he just wants to think about them and the event. It is quiet, peaceful, and cooler, so I could see why. He said the memorial definitely helped people to heal.

I did the photos with the pillows in front of the building. He was totally open to it. This was a great experience to meet Steve, hear his story, and to see the memorial. I am very glad that this project allows me to meet people like this. I’m hoping they had a good anniversary the next day.

After this, we went to Newington. They didn’t give us permission, so we kept going to our hotel in Danbury, CT. We stopped in nearby Newtown to find where the school was of the Sandy Hook shooting. The new school was just opened the week before, but we still got chills going to the location. They built the school on the same land. I asked for us to leave right away because it was too chilling for me…

The next morning, we drove to the Sandy Hook Promise office and met with Betsy, who I had been emailing back and forth about coming and visiting. She let us in the office and showed us around the space. We signed a sign that had signatures from all over the world of people that had come to visit and give their thoughts. She also showed us a map of where their organization has spread to in the US. Lots of places! Still more to go, though.

We then all got in our rental car and she started to give us a tour of the town as we drove to the Board of Education. It’s a very cute town. Hard to believe such an event could have happened there…

At the Board of Ed., we went to ask for permission to photograph the school. I had to be very sensitive in asking permission as the town is very scarred by the event and it is such a sensitive subject because the victims were so young. Its definitely a different situation than other sites that I have had to ask permission about. The superintendent wasn’t there, so we had to talk with his secretary. She was very hesitant and I could tell right away that I had to really be careful with how I asked and acted. She said she would ask her boss via call/text and come back out to tell us what he said.

Thankfully, she came back and said that we could photograph the front of the school but couldn’t go inside or anywhere else around the building. I was very very thankful to her. She looked like she might start to cry and Betsy hugged her and said “it’s all right”. Betsy stopped us after and said she might cry too. She told us that she had never met that lady before, but that that is what the tragedy did to their city. People who never knew each other end up hugging and comforting each other because it was a scar on their community and not just to those involved. I almost started to cry at this point to because I could really see the pain. I can only imagine what it was like right when it happened.

After this we headed to the new Sandy Hook school. Betsy hadn’t seen it yet. I felt really awkward taking the photos, since there were some people around, but I did it. We had permission, so there wasn’t anything to worry about. I didn’t want to put the pillows out since it was such a sensitive scene and subject. They represent the humans effected…these happen to be children. It would have been too much of a risk and I didn’t want to pain anyone else.

Got the photos done in about 5 minutes, as always. Then we got out of there and headed to the next street. Turned around and saw the copper stars that were installed on the firehouse right by the school. There are 26 stars. It was a beautiful site to see and a surprise to turn around to. A wonderful remembrance to the victims. It is a perfect spot for them to do that because it is right by the school, and also one of the victims wanted to be a firefighter. At his funeral, Betsy told us, he even got a firefighter funeral with them all lined up and doing what they do for one lost. Firefighters from all around came to the funeral. We saw photos of it later, and it was beautiful.

After this, we headed around the rest of town and saw more of it. Its a historic town, especially by the standards of the midwest that I am used to. Everything on the east coast is old, to me. At one point, we stopped and Betsy told us that the street we were on was covered in flowers, teddy bears, notes, etc. that people sent or brought to the town after the event. It blocked the street, there was so much. After the winter, they had to end up burning all of the things, and they will use the ashes in whatever the memorial is that they do in the town for the victims. Its a very nice addition.

Said goodbye and got a picture with Betsy. It was a very somber day and I’m very thankful to Betsy, the superintendent, Board of Ed, and everyone else. Again, very grateful to be able to have these experiences because of this project. I hope moments like this day continue.

We then took a long drive towards Lancaster, PA to get the site in Nickel Mines, PA. This was a shooting of an Amish school, which has now been torn down. We had trouble finding the exact location, as it was just a field now. Had to creepily go back and forth on this one road until I could match the news photos to the current area. Sorry, locals! 😛 This was an interesting area, as I had never really seen Amish people before. They were everywhere. Very interesting people and I’m kind of jealous for their lack of technology and focus on family. We seem to have lost that in our current age. I’m not sure how I would do without any kind of technology, though!

After one night in Lancaster, we took a very bumpy train (sorry, European trains are better) to NYC Penn Station. We only had one full day here the next day, so we saw things that first night really fast, like Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, and Bryant Park. I had been here before, so I wasn’t go crazy about getting everywhere and only having one day here. The city is so lively. No where else in the world has this kind of life, I’d say. We had a delicious Italian dinner and then went back to our bad hotel that I will not name…

On the full day the next day, we got a train to Long Island leaving from Penn Station. It took about an hour to get out to Merillon Avenue, where the shooting happened. This is an important site to the project, as it was the first mass-shooting to happen after my birth. December 7th, 1993. I was only 4 days old. 6 people died and 19 were injured. This was the beginning of my life in a world full of senseless killings.

I didn’t have the same feeling of chills or anything that I did at Sandy Hook or Manchester, CT. It did happen so long ago, and I wouldn’t have even known what death was at that point in my life. The photos were super easy. It was at the train stop, so we just got off, took the photos, then switched sides and went back to NYC. This is an important site, but I doubt many people even know about it. Maybe it is just important to me.

We got back and headed to Greenwich Village. Very nice area and I hadn’t been there before. We also went to find the location of the CBGB club, but it wasn’t there anymore. All that was left was a mural nearby of Joey Ramone. Kinda wish it was still there. I think it should have been made into a museum, not a modern shop…

Now we are near Washington DC in Alexandria, VA. We took a train, which was better than the last train, but still not up to the level of the European trains. Step it up, America! 😛 Tomorrow we go to the site, but not sure if we will be able to get the photo. I don’t really want to mess with the Navy 😛 wish us luck! More later.


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