A high level of stress, anxiety, fear, worry, and anger remains in the community of Newtown, Connecticut, in the more than two years that have passed when a gunman shot and killed 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a new survey found.
Some of the respondents who are predominantly outside of the school have persistent feelings of guilt, reluctance to discuss how the tragedy has impacted them, and lack awareness of services available in the community to assist, according to the survey, which was released Wednesday by the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation. As the data confirms, such feelings create a level of suffering in silence or guilt by individuals who don’t feel as if they should be struggling or have a right to reach out for help because they weren’t as directly impacted as someone else.
But the majority of respondents reported feeling that the community is strong and moving in a positive direction, and that there are opportunities to connect and participate in volunteer activities, according to the data.
The foundation conducted the anonymous community-wide survey between Jan. 22 and Feb. 13, and generated 999 responses. Besides the foundation’s internal lists, members distributed the survey through the community of Newtown, the Newtown Public School District, and The Newtown Bee, the local newspaper.
The questions focused on better understanding the strengths of the community, what has been helpful during the recovery process since the massacre, what challenges remain, and what impact the tragedy continues to have on various segments of the community. Participants included public officials, clergy, mental health providers, teachers, first-responders, and concerned members of the community.
The foundation is a non-profit organization established three years ago in the wake of the shooting on Dec. 14, 2012 to allocate donations that poured into the community from around the world. Its leaders in March shared the plans to close the foundation in December 2025, when the youngest students who attended the school at the time of the tragedy graduate from high school.
Members of the foundation also have been focused on using resources from the Sandy Hook School Support Fund to assist individuals and the community on continuous public input and research, including supporting out-of-pocket mental health and wellness costs, two rounds of grant funding to support programs working to strengthen people and the town, and events.
Ten families that were affected by the shooting filed a lawsuit in December against Bushmaster for making, distributing, and selling the AR-15 rifle. The action alleges negligence and wrongful death.