By Grace Bennett
Philadelphia, July 27 — When a parent who lost a child to the Sandy Hook massacre speaks of the need for us all to move forward, it is impossible not to feel your own resolve turn to steel.
The Bardens lost their six year old son Daniel, one of 20 first grade children and six educators gunned down on December 14, 2012 by Adam Lanza, who had easy access to military style assault weaponry in his home.
It seemed the entire world mourned and the surviving families where inundated with letters, drawings, etc.. But despite the intense outpouring, a raw pain still plagues the survivors interviewed; and some feel ready to reconcile that it may be an impossible one to erase. The parents describe how they struggle to maintain connections to the very spirit of their children, who live on inside them. One mother pointed to a room full of boxes of the letters and gifts that she is just starting to look at three years later. “We go on for the (surviving) children,” who are “miraculously still smiling and playing,” another parent related.
The movie’s powerful impact was not via graphic descriptions of what transpired in the classroom where the children died but rather achieved by conveying the intense pain and conflicting emotions–and also the dreams…the dreams…ones in which their children are still alive or one mother’s dream that she died holding her child (“at least I could be with him”). An emotional roller coaster may best describe the daily lives and consciousness of the survivors, surviving neighbors, siblings and good friends, and of the community at large.
Filmed over the course of three years, the filmmakers were granted unique access. There was never before heard testimony to depict the aftermath of the 2012 deadliest mass shooting of of school children in U.S. history. In Newtown, 12/14 is a day that changed…everything. But many, like the Bardens, continue to fight the gun lobby through the efforts of www.weareallNewtown.org and other advocacy groups, members of which were in attendance too.
“We are hoping for a ripple effect from this film,” commented Newtown’s director Kim Snyder. “We are using the film to reframe gun violence as a public health issue.”
Producer Maria Cuomo Cole called Newtown a “metaphor for what has happened to communities around the country. The unfortunate series of events since…people are scared in an unprecedented way.”
“I don’t see how anyone can see this film without being moved,” said Congressman David Price, vice chair of the House Democrats’ Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. The issues surrounding gun prevention violence, he said, “have become a front and center, major presidential issue.”
Indeed, President Obama addressed gun violence in his speech last night, and his heartbreaking feelings of helplessness following Sandy Hook in particular. The issue–and a promise to never quit fighting the NRA–has been a prominent part of the Hillary Clinton campaign in her bid to be elected president.
Mark Barden urges everyone to get involved and described how he and his wife became “accidental advocates. I’m not proud that it took the loss of our little Daniel. Like so many Americans, we were disengaged. Now we will do whatever we can to prevent others from experiencing this kind of pain.”