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January 17, 2013

A Few Photos From Newtown: Crisis Dogs and Ties that Bind

Crisis dog Newtown

One of my regrets in following visual news is not following up enough to previous stories. That’s the lure of the news cycle, each subsequent event like the bright shiny object. It’s not like we haven’t been focused on gun control. What we haven’t done, however, is return to Newtown itself, a village that continues to suffer indescribable grief in the month since the massacre at the grade school.

At least two photos from Newtown stood out to us this week, each a measure of that emotional magnitude. The first shows what are known as “crisis comfort dogs” at a meeting at the elementary school about its future. What’s so noteworthy is this woman’s depth of pain, knowing how the therapeutic impact of such animals is well documented and how Beau,the dog, has also made such an empathic connection.


This second photo asks: how can people possibly survive the kind of loss these parents have experienced? Suggestive of the deeper bonds surely running throughout the town at this point, the photo (not to overlook the mural crowning Nicole Hockley’s head behind) says: “these hands hold me in place.”

(photo: Michelle McLoughlin/AP caption: Glen Hoffman, left, of Extra Mile Ministries with K9 crisis comfort dog Beau, listen during a community meeting at Newtown High school on the future of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. Talk about Sandy Hook Elementary School is turning from last month’s massacre to the future, with differing opinions on whether students and staff should ever return to the building where a gunman killed 20 students and six educators..)

(photo: John Moore/Getty Images caption: Nelba Marquez Greene (L) and Nicole Hockley (R) both mothers of Sandy Hook Elementary massacre victims, console each other during a press conference on the one month anniversary of the Newtown elementary school massacre on January 14, 2013 in Newtown, Connecticut. Eleven families of Sandy Hook massacre victims came to the event one month after the shooting to give their support to Sandy Hook Promise, a new non-profit with the goal of preventing such tragedies in the future.

  • jonst

    those are some of the most profoundly moving and haunting photos I have ever seen. In a now long life.

  • Cactus

    The depth of that woman’s grief is so enormous and she is so closed
    into herself that the dog can’t even reach her. Although, obviously, he is
    trying. It even looks like he is absorbing her grief. Or trying to.

    In photo 2, the man looks rather stoic but the women in front wear
    their grief on their faces. Especially the one on the right — perhaps it was
    her only child. And in a smallish town like this one, a lot of these people
    probably knew each other. I wonder if one’s grief is more overwhelming when
    everyone around you is grieving for their loss at the same time.

    Terrific photos — even if a bit intrusive.

  • Thomas

    Sandy Hook Promise is a very interesting and heartening notion, and seems grounded in the truth that we can’t just change laws and think we’re done. We have to work for deeper cultural evolution in the ways we understand violence, mental health, our relationship to our community and guns. These parents have lost children they were working to raise so now they’re helping us grow up instead.

  • BooksAlive

    To me, Beau looks like a therapy dog fulfilling that role, compared to the dog in the background who sits in an attentive position. As the families speak about their plans for going forward, we learn more from parents who have other children who attended that school and survived by chance. In the case of a set of twins, the son was killed but the daughter survived. On an optimistic note, a 9-year-old who attended the school says he will write a book about it when he grows up.

  • Megan

    I think that lady is reading. I am sure she is sad. But I don’t think there is a depth that everyone else is seeing.

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