Staples Community Reacts to Newtown

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Noel Berry

Some of the Staples administration looks on at the foyer on the day of the shooting.

Last Friday morning, rumors buzzed in the Staples cafeteria. Stray words were carelessly and unknowingly thrown—shooting, Newtown, children.

Dead.

It wasn’t until the afternoon when rumors were confirmed, and the Staples community turned their attention from conversations to their computers. As soon as students were crowding around laptops, the noise that was once a naïve buzz turned to a full clamor.

Using Social Media

For some students, Twitter served as a real-time news source during the day. While #prayersfornewtown trended and well-wishes were written 140 characters at a time, many turned to Twitter for current information.

“I looked at my Twitter feed and people were posting about Newtown all day,” Nick Paparo ’13 said. “Initially there were rumors on there that one teacher was shot and it was only in the foot, which turned out to be sort of true. But I heard about everything else later.”

After the school day, students went home and took the time to formulate lengthier, more thoughtful reflections.

“Shootings have become so common that I was not at all surprised when I found out there was [one],” Julia Greene ’15 wrote in a Facebook status. “It’s despicable that something so heinous and blatantly evil could be mentioned without an ounce of surprise.”

Greene was one of the many who posted a status on Facebook, needing to write out what was pent up inside. Grayson Weir ’14 took a separate look at the incident, venting while examining in his status the shooting’s proximity.

“The extremity of this event is beyond tragic,” Weir wrote. “You never know how hard it hits until it happens in your own backyard.”

Nick Ribolla ’16 posted as well. However, he, like many others, discussed the politics emerging from this situation—Ribolla collected nearly 100 likes on his status supporting gun control.

“I hope some good will come out of this tragic event, that people will come to their senses, and that it may be the last of its kind,” Ribolla wrote.

Ribolla also acknowledged Facebook as the “best way to get your voice, your opinions out there.”

“People don’t pay attention to a lot,” Ribolla said. “But for some reason they care about what people write on Facebook.”

Griffin Noyer ’13 agrees with Ribolla, and—while he didn’t touch on gun control—he did discuss other precautions that could have been taken. He wrote in his status, “No, I don’t blame the mental illness. I blame the fact that we haven’t taken enough time to identify the mental illnesses in people and treat them before they get out of hand.”

Like Ribolla, Noyer found Facebook to be a safe place to voice an opinion.

“The pseudo-anonymity makes it easier to talk to people in a reasonable fashion without voices getting raised and the discussion turning into an argument,” Noyer said.

Zack Pensak ’13 took a different approach to national reflection. Pensak addressed the two shootings so close together in time—Oregon and, of course, Newtown—and connected them in a broad scope.

“What pushes these people to the point when they are trying to take the lives of innocent people?” Pensak asked in his post. “Our country may be a great place, but the things we don’t address reveal a much more hideous and deeply disturbing side of America.”

Some of Pensak’s desire to post stemmed from wanting to get a feel for where the rest of his peers stood on the tragedy.

“Most of what I read was focused around our need for stricter gun laws,” Pensak said. “Although I totally agree with this, I felt that there were more important things that needed to be addressed, and so I wanted to hear people’s reactions to what I thought needed to be done.”

Outside the Internet

While Facebook was a popular means of expression, it was not the only means. Yousef Shahin ’14, son of first grade teacher Mary Ellen Shahin, tried to ease his mind through actual  human connection.

“I knew my mom would be terrified,” Shahin said. “When my mom got home she didn’t even turn on the news. She couldn’t bear to watch.”

In addition to having an elementary school teacher for a mother, Yousef Shahin has a fourth-grade sister who, since Friday, he’s been worrying more and more about.

“Anything like that makes you think about what could happen,” he said. “I just fear for my little sister. I wouldn’t want her to have to go through all that.”

While Shahin was busy with his family, Staples paraprofessional Maggie Parkhurst was emailing former colleagues. Parkhurst felt she had a more personal sympathy for the child victims since prior to this year she worked at King’s Highway Elementary School in Westport.

“I immediately sent e-mails to the teachers at Kings Highway that I was thinking of them and that they had my thoughts and prayers,” Parkhurst said. “I had to make sure to tell them words are too shallow to describe any feelings about this tragedy.”

For some, the tragedy raised questions, and the questions were difficult to answer. Pensak, for instance, resorted to the TV.

“I was anxious to find a news source that would tell me what actually happened,” said Pensak. “It was impossible to find due to the terrible media reporting on the event.”

Students said they continued to seek information through the weekend and the days that followed. Noyer, another TV viewer, came away with a deeper perspective.

“After seeing the pastor and the rabbi give their ceremonies in Newtown on Sunday night, I sort of became sad,” Noyer said. “I wondered, though, about a day after the ceremony, why I was sad. That question I could not—and still can’t—answer.”

The Future

After a few days, after the buzz grew to clamor, all sound shrank until the community was left with nothing but silence.

“It has caused me to rethink my views on something as simple as a Monday morning. Yes, Monday mornings suck,” Weir said. “But I woke up this Monday thankful to have another day.”