Glitter as sparkling and colorful as love spilled onto shirtfronts and laps from almost every envelope. Recycled cartons on the table filled quickly as volunteers sorted and distributed snowflakes, notes, and return addresses. Against the wall waited white plastic postal bins crammed with bulky manila envelopes. The veteran volunteers who greeted me when I arrived said, “This is nothing. Last week, those bins reached the ceiling.”
After the shootings in Newtown, the world was in mourning. While shopping for the holidays, preparing traditional meals, and watching loved ones unwrap presents, there was a pall, as everyone knew twenty-six families were suffering grief beyond bearing. “I just want to hug them,” my hairdresser said as she brushed dye over a foil-wrapped strand of my hair. It was surreal that life trundled on, even with the illusion shattered that little kids were safe in school.
A high school girl from New Jersey wrote, “I have cried and prayed and cried some more, trying to think of something I could do…and then I read about the snowflake project.” For in deciding to create a winter wonderland at the school that would welcome the students of Sandy Hook Elementary after December break, the Connecticut PTSA also provided an answer for those who yearned to give comfort.
Love came to Newtown by post, an avalanche of paper, felt, cotton balls, coffee filters, lace, ribbon, and glitter. Love arrived in silver and wood, elaborately carved. Love swirled in as paper ballerinas encircled with snowflake tutus, and remarkably, Love appeared in Force as a Star Wars surprise: Yoda, C3P0, R2D2 and the storm troopers, artfully snipped into lacy snowflakes.
As we stood side-by-side, opening envelopes, a woman told me, “My son’s in first grade. When he went back to school on the Monday after the shooting, his teacher had put a Hershey’s kiss on every desk. She told me it was hard not to cry; she wanted to hug them all.”
People of every age from everywhere wanted to hug the people of Newtown, and, since they could not, they sent snowflakes. Envelopes mailed from legal firms, businesses, insurance companies, and retirement homes held offerings of comfort from good souls at their desks or on break, from loving hands folding, smoothing and snipping.
Most mailings came from elementary schools. Many included pictures of little kids grinning, each holding a snowflake, the very snowflakes tucked into the envelopes. “You are not alone. It will get better. I promise,” one child wrote in irregular, loopy, little-kid print.
High school students, too, spent time snipping. Photos showed leggy girls and burly boys, beaming while holding snowflakes they’d made for the children of Sandy Hook. No time to be cool with little kids to cheer.
Mounted on the wall, maps of the world and the United States bristled with bead-headed pins. Every yellow, red, or blue-topped pointer represented people with full hearts, scissors, and paper from Connecticut, California, Utah, Nevada, Texas, Pennsylvania, Maine, New York, and… well, from every state, in fact. From Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, the Czech Republic, Australia, and every European country…from just about every land on the globe, people sent snowflakes of love.
After learning, so painfully, that there are no safe zones, the wound is jagged and deep. But in snowflakes of paper, cotton balls, and glitter, was the balm of love offered by people the world over.
From the CT PTSA website: The winter wonderland is complete. Thank you to everyone who has donated snowflakes on behalf of the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and the community of Newtown. We know that each snowflake represents the emotional outreach of the person making it. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity from around not just the country, but the world.
For other ways to help the Newtown community, check the CT PTSA website.