The Letters To Newtown Project

Newtown resident Ross MacDonald writes: Since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, more than a half million cards, letters, and drawings have been sent to the people of Newtown, Connecticut, from around the world. The spontaneous

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Newtown resident Ross MacDonald writes:

Since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, more than a half million cards, letters, and drawings have been sent to the people of Newtown, Connecticut, from around the world.

The spontaneous outdoor memorials that sprang up in Newtown after the shootings—the angels, teddy bears, Christmas trees, and other displays—became one of the symbols of this tragedy. But the many letters and cards and drawings that were mailed are less well known.

In their shock and grief, people were compelled to make these intensely raw, personal expressions, and send them to a town they probably hadn’t heard of before, not knowing if they would even reach us. They offered help, love, condolences, prayers. They came from children, parents, families, school classes, church groups, soldiers, mayors, survivors, inmates, and entire towns. The letters on display at town hall form a massive tapestry of a world’s sorrow.

When my wife and I visited them in early January, we ended up taking hundreds of photos, returning again and again. Others have been moved to do the same.

The town very respectfully cleared away most of the outdoor public memorials after a couple of weeks for incineration, the ash to be incorporated into a future permanent memorial site. When it announced that it would be doing the same with the cards and letters, we knew we had to try to save them. The town is emotionally overtaxed and lacks the funds and space to preserve them. But they are important to save—as an ongoing reminder of what happened and as a record of the world’s response.

MacDonald reached out to the editors of Mother Jones, who in turn reached out to Tumblr Storyboard, and together they launched this project, "Letters to Newtown."

The letters will be published daily on Tumblr Storyboard, until every letter, image and drawing has been published. Newtown officials have been approached about creating an (extensive) digital archive, and MacDonald hopes that an actual physical home can be found for the thousands upon thousands of letters. As he notes, "Because the wisdom they express should not be lost to history. Take the words of one little girl named Brynn":

“Dear students and staff. I am sorry about your friends. I hope your school is safe from now on. I feel so bad for you. I don’t like to see people go. I am so sad. I wish people would stop being so mean.”

About Diane Sweet

Diane Sweet's picture
Senior Editor, Lives in a gerrymandered district in Michigan.

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