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In Memory of Dylan Hockley

Katie Cion
Jake Hockley, brother of Dylan Hockley to whom the playground is dedicated, breaks ground at Long Lots on Friday.

Friday morning’s groundbreaking of Long Lots’ new playground, donated by New Jersey Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association as a part of their “Sandy Ground: Where Angels Play” project, which plans to build 26 playgrounds in memory of the 26 victims that passed away at Sandy Hook, was not a time to dwell on the tragedy that befell Newtown, Conn. last December but, rather, as First Selectman Gordon Joseloff put it, a celebration: of community, of charity and of Dylan Hockley, a little boy who died at Sandy Hook, to whom the playground is dedicated.

Despite the rain, many Westport citizens crowded the playground for the ceremony, joining the New Jersey Firefighters, Westport Firefighters, Police and EMS, as well as Dylan’s parents, Ian and Nicole, his grandparents and his brother Jake, who served as foreman of the event with tools in hand.

Superintendent Elliot Landon gave the opening remarks and relayed the towns’ gratitude for the donation. In an earlier interview, Landon commented on the mixed emotions surrounding the playground.

“I’m saddened by the fact that Newtown occurred, but I’m very thankful we’ve been selected to have the playground built on our grounds,” Landon said.

This mix of emotions permeated the ceremony. The tragedy underpinning the event was evident in the solemnity of the men who stood in uniform, the incongruity of the crowd of umbrella-wielding adults on a child’s playground and the framed picture of Dylan that his dad held in his arms.

But, when Ian Hockley, who was later the subject of a heartfelt rendition of “Happy Birthday” sung by the crowd, stepped up to speak, the strength in his voice as he talked about his son, referring to the tragedy that took his life only as “12/14,” was a signal of resilience.

“Dylan loved going out [to the playground] as a family,” Ian Hockley said.

The playground at Long Lots is the fourth of the 26 playgrounds that will be built across the country.

The donation was accepted by the Board of Education in March, after which the Long Lots PTA decided to mount their own project, the Butterfly Effect, in support of the program.

“We wanted to do our own twist on it and make it something of meaning to Dylan,” Long Lots PTA Co-President Lauren Goodman said.

After reading Dylan Hockley’s eulogy, Goodman and the PTA were inspired by the concept of a “Butterfly Effect.”  As his mother explained, Dylan had autism, and, whenever he got excited, he would “flap.” When asked by his mother why he was flapping, he responded, “Because I am a beautiful butterfly.”

After his death, his parents thought about the idea of the “butterfly effect,” the notion that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world can cause a hurricane in another.

“Dylan and all the other children and teachers who lost their lives are butterflies now. If one butterfly can cause a hurricane, then 26 butterflies can change the world,” Nicole Hockley said after Dylan’s passing.

The PTA sold bracelets, bumper stickers and T-shirts in the weeks leading up to the event, all marked with a purple butterfly. At the ceremony, the PTA presented the Hockley family with $1,000 for Dylan’s memorial fund and donated $11,500 to the New Jersey Firefighters to continue their efforts.

To end the ceremony, Jake Hockley picked up a shovel and dug into the gravel of the Long Lots playground, officially beginning the construction of a new one. However, before the building began, Jake had something to say to the firefighters.

“Get to work,” he ordered, with a smile that had eluded him all morning.

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Katie Cion, Editor-in-Chief
The only girl surrounded by a brand-new Bernese Mountain puppy and four brothers (one a twin) Katie Cion is used to chaos.  She believes that she thrives in it, which is one of the reasons she and Inklings are such a perfect match.  The bedlam, she says, “is a lot like home”. A multi-talented member of the Staples community, Katie dedicates her time not only to Inklings, but also TAG, the Yearbook, Student Ambassadors, National Honors Society, and Spanish National Honors Society.  An English lover, Katie’s pursuit of Inklings and journalism helped bring her appreciation of reading and writing into a real world application. “I’m not sure if I want to pursue a career in journalism, but if I do I want to write long-form articles, like in magazines.  It’s so cool to combine the literary and reporting aspects, to see all the work the writer(s) put in, and to have all those little details,” Cion said. With a wide range of articles ranging from news to sports to opinions, Cion’s prowess in the literary field is clearly apparent, as is the pride she takes in her position as Editor-in-Chief this year. “It was so rewarding to know the people I looked up to thought I would do a good job,” Cion said.  “It was nice to get affirmation from people you respect.” With an equally impressive and overwhelming schedule, it is remarkable how well Katie manages herself.  Her composure and kindness make her not only a phenomenal addition to the Inklings staff, but also a thoughtful and capable leader.

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