The Sandy Hook Memorial opens almost 10 years after 26 people died

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — A memorial to the 20 first graders and six educators killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was opened to the public on Sunday, a month before the 10th anniversary of the massacre.

No ceremony was planned on the grounds in close proximity to the school. It has become a habit in Newtown to celebrate anniversaries and other memories of the shooting with quiet reflection.

A small but steady stream of people attended Memorial Sunday, including Kevin and Nora Smith from nearby Monroe.

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“It just takes your breath away,” said Nora Smith. “It’s something you hold dear because you feel so bad for these families.”

Bouquets of flowers floated anti-clockwise in the water feature surrounded by a cobblestone path and a few benches.

The new Sandy Hook school, built on the same property after the previous ones were demolished, can be seen through the woods now that the leaves have fallen.

The relatives of some of the victims were given a private tour of the site on Saturday.

“I think they deserve not to have the bright lights of the world on them,” said Newtown First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, the city’s highest elected official.

The memorial was conceived as a peaceful place of reflection. Pathways with a variety of planting lead to a water feature with a plane tree in the center and the names of the victims engraved on top of a surrounding retaining wall.

The flow of water was designed in such a way that buoyant candles, flowers and other objects move towards and circle around the tree.

Like the families of some of the other victims, Jennifer Hubbard saw the memorial at a private appointment earlier this weekend. Their daughter, Catherine Violet Hubbard, 6, was one of the children who died in the December 14, 2012 shooting.

“It took my breath away to see Catherine’s name and to see what was created to honor those who lost … the families, the survivors — they lost their innocence,” she said. “And the community. We all suffered from December 14th.

“I think the memorial is so perfectly suited to honoring a day and providing a place for contemplation and reflection that really changed the country,” she said.

Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose 6-year-old daughter Ana Grace Marquez-Greene was killed, took to Twitter on Saturday to thank those who worked years to plan the memorial.

“10 years. A lifetime and a blink of an eye,” she wrote. “Ana Grace, we’ve always been waiting for you to come home. Now you’re waiting for us. Hold on, little one. Hold on.”

City voters approved $3.7 million for the cost of the memorial last year. Some of the cost was offset when the State Bond Commission approved giving the city $2.5 million for the project.

The project faced several challenges after the city appointed a special commission to oversee memorial planning in the fall of 2013. Some proposed locations were rejected, including one near a hunting club where gunfire was heard, and officials lowered the project’s $10 million cost over concerns that voters would not approve it. The Sandy Hook Memorial opens almost 10 years after 26 people died

Dais Johnston

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