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March 7, 2013
Sheldon Neil


“When asked, ‘What surprised you the most about your time spent and coverage in Newtown, Connecticut?’ I’m going to say it was the strength displayed by a mother I met, whose daughter was killed the morning of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.

The last memory she had of her daughter was putting her on the school bus that morning. But, there she was before our interview . . . smiling ear-to-ear and laughing with those around her. For a moment, it seemed as if someone should ask her, “Do you know your daughter was just killed in cold blood?” But, when speaking with her, do you know what she revealed the secret to her strength was? It wasn’t the teddy bears, although touching. It wasn’t perhaps the letters of support, although such a public display of care. It wasn’t the other gestures of warmth that left her grateful beyond words. No. That wasn’t the secret to her strength. Do you want to know what it was? She told me it was her relationship with God. 

Then there was my visit to a memorial site. A tent filled with teddy bears, candles, cards, bristle boards with messages of love and figurines. Everywhere I looked, starring back at me was a message to the people of Newtown from people all over the world sharing words of love and support. Perhaps the most touching, although stood almost hidden among the collage of candles, cards and bristle board. It was a woman. Her purpose, she shared was simple. To give a hug to every person who comes to visit the memorial site. Everyday she’s there. Morning until night: to give a hug.


From January 7th to the 10th, I was privileged to visit Newtown, Connecticut. I spent time meeting and speaking with people who despite having their life torn apart by an act of senseless and targeted violence still find a strength that seems to outweigh pain and loss. It’s a strength that says despite a void created, “We will rebuild.”

It's a journey of insight, discovery and faith. See how these three factors become interwoven to help a mother, a teacher, pastor and a woman committed to touch those around her with a hug, get through a time of nightmare and tragedy neither of them were ready for.            


Sheldon Neil is a producer & on-air contributor for Context TV. View a photo gallery of the Context crew's time in Newtown, CT here


I was down in Connecticut with the team. To this day I am in awe of the reality of this story. Going to the actual location of the tragedy truly opened my eyes to the fact that it could have happened anywhere. The message that this overall story sent out to the world was key: We need to know God, and believe that He can help fix our hurt instead of blaming him for our hurt. Pastor Calver said himself that God did not promise to take all tribulation away, but He promised to be with us in the midst of it all. How awesome is that alone? I respect the mother and teacher who were open to speak about their personal experiences with such power and strength. The way that they carried themselves was so dignified, it strengthened me in a way that I cannot even explain. God bless the sweet souls of Newtown, Connecticut. I count it such a blessing to have been able to lend a helping had on the journey towards constructing this story. Caroline Dinnall
March 10, 2013 | Caroline Dinnall

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