First picture: a young woman, slightly bent, stands by the side of a line of parked cars.
She is crying and screaming into a cellphone. Her left hand clutches her chest. She looks frantic.
Her name is Carlee Soto and she wants someone to tell her that her sister, a teacher at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Conn., is OK.
She is not. Victoria Soto, 27, is lying dead inside her classroom, where she had tried to shield her young charges from a gunman.
• • •
Another picture: young children are escorted through a school parking lot by uniformed police officers.
Some of the children are crying. They have no coats. They have formed a conga line of sorts, with their hands on the shoulders of the child in front of them. Their eyes are shut tight.
It is part of the school’s evacuation plan — have them close their eyes so they cannot see the carnage in the corridors on their way out. They have seen and heard and endured so much on this day, but from this, at least, they have been spared.
• • •
In this photo: a silver Christmas ornament beaded with condensation hangs on a tree. It bears the name of Noah Pozner, and his birthdate: 11-20-06.
You have to read it twice. How can someone born in 2006 be dead? But he is. A beautiful brown-haired boy with a sweet smile and long eyelashes his mom says any woman would have loved to have.
She said that at his funeral. Her six-year-old’s funeral. The Associated Press reported that Veronique Pozner somehow found the strength to speak at the service.
“Most of all, I will miss your visions of your future,” she said. “You wanted to be a doctor, a soldier, a taco factory manager. It was your favourite food, and no doubt you wanted to ensure that the world kept producing tacos. … Momma loves you, little man.”
Only a child, filled with whimsy and optimism, would see nothing incongruous about such diverse career aspirations. When you are six, anything is possible. You can cure the sick; defend your country; make tacos. Why not?
But Noah can no longer dream of his taco factory. His parents cannot imagine his future. His hopefulness and theirs have died along with him.
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Fixed in time: a line of Christmas stockings hang on a railing in the town square. Each has a white rose pinned to it and each bears a name: Victoria, Lauren, Dawn, Allison, Charlotte, Daniel, Rachel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Anne Marie, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Mary, Benjamin.
These stockings won’t be filled. They are as limp and empty as the friends and family left behind.
• • •
A snapshot: Allison sits at a table, her light brown hair pinned back on one side with a barrette. A loose tendril trails across her forehead. She has blue eyes, a heart-shaped face and a slightly lopsided smile. She is wearing a green and white tank top, and in front of her, on the table, is a pink cake with coloured sprinkles.
It’s her last birthday cake, but of course she does not know that. Nobody does. It has six candles.
• • •
A photo: mourners arriving at a funeral. The railings around the veranda are festooned with garland and bows.
The mourners are small. They are dressed casually. They are children, heading inside to pay respect and say goodbye to one of their peers.
Children shouldn’t have to bury their peers. Parents shouldn’t have to bury their children. Caskets should not come in such small sizes.
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Another photo: a tree, bedecked with ornaments and stars, ribbons and candy canes. A child’s bounty underneath: a big smiling teddy bear with a jaunty red bow; a small plush lamb; a bunch of balloons.
This is not a Christmas tree. These are not gifts. This is a memorial to the dead. A small sign in a child’s hand says “Pray for Newtown.”
• • •
In this picture: a police officer bends to hug a woman as she and a man walk their young son to school.
The father looks weary.
The boy looks expectant and nervous. He is pulling up the strap of his backpack.
Children aren’t usually welcomed to school by police officers. The police officers are here as assurance. As insurance. And they are here because these parents and children have had to go back to the school routine.
They are trying to return to normalcy and schedule. But there is no normalcy. There are only questions and chaos and heartache.
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On this page — last photo: a toy bear props up a handwritten note from Trystan, a six-year-old boy from Queen’s, New York.
His message is simple and honest in a way that only a child’s can be, but it is also profound, and expresses the grief and confusion we are all experiencing:
“I feel very sad about everything. I don’t understand why will anyone do this to little kids like us. I will miss you all.
“P.S. Please take guns away from everyone."
Pam Frampton is a columnist and The Telegram’s associate managing editor. She can be reached by email at email@example.com. Twitter: pam_frampton