By Danielle Silvia
Dec. 14, 2012, was a day that changed American history for the worst –– Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was the target of a deadly school shooting.
The documentary “Newtown” expresses the grief and rebuilding of families since 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 20 students under the age of seven, and six educators, including the principal of the school. Over the years, Newtown has been trying to pick up the pieces and help the victims’ families and friends try to recover from this unimaginable loss.
Directed by Kim A. Snyder, the film was first produced four years after the tragedy and aired in October 2016, but it became available to the public on April 3 when it aired on PBS.
The documentary included commentary from a few of the victims’ families, specifically from the families of 7-year-old Daniel Barden, 6-year-old Dylan Hockley and 6-year-old Benjamin Wheeler. Each of the families discuss how their lives have changed since the tragedy and how they plan to live for their children and honor their memories.
Natalie Barden, Daniel Barden’s sister, was just 10 years old when she lost her brother. She talks about how her parents encouraged her to write down memories of her young brother in an effort to remember who he was, since she was so young when he passed away.
Nicole Hockley, Dylan Hockley’s mother, spearheaded The Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization created by some of the victims’ families to spread awareness of mental illness and gun violence.
Dylan, who was autistic, lived such a short life and inspired others to live life to the fullest, Nicole said. He may have faced challenges due to his disability, but he still lived a happy life.
The film vividly recreated that fateful day with 911 calls and video footage of the surrounding area. I liked how the screen would go black when people spoke about what happened on Dec. 14, like when surviving students’ parents spoke on their behalf.
In addition, teachers who survived the event spoke about what they remember from the shooting. These blackouts convey the sense of fear and shock that many of the witnesses and victims’ families experienced on the day and days following the tragedy.
I also found the film to be very inspirational. These victims have lost so much yet continue to live for the small joys life still brings them. Nicole Hockley spoke about how butterflies remind her of Dylan and help her cope during the darker moments of her recovery from grief.
The documentary used very little music and was mostly dialogue and reactions. I learned a lot about the aftermath of Newtown, too –– the state paid $50 million to rebuild the school, which was torn down in 2013, most likely in an effort to tear apart the damage and ugly memories permanently sewn within its walls.
But most of all, this film taught me that life is so precious. Everyday, we all face onerous challenges and disappointments, but we must remember to put things into perspective. Each day is a treasure and a gift.