Newtown Parents Committed to Staying Put

PHOTO: Ana Deaguiar, 21, and her 16-month-old son Giovanni visit the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting memorial in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 18, 2012.
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The people of Newtown, Conn., and the surrounding towns are filled with fear and doubt in light of the rampage that turned their worlds upside down. Despite the uncertainty, however, there is one thing parents are adamant about: They're not going anywhere.

"I know it's an awful thing, but this town and the towns surrounding it, it's a big community where people come together and people know each other," resident Chris Roman said. "Growing up here, I would definitely stay."

He paused a moment, before saying with great resolve, "I'm definitely going to stay. One tragedy is not going to push us away."

Roman and his wife, Ellen Roman, are the parents of 16-month-old Stella and they have held her even closer since the Adam Lanza killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School before turning the gun on himself. He had killed his mother at her home earlier that morning.

"I don't think I've kissed her as much as I have in the past three days as I have the entire time she's been alive," Ellen Roman, 33, said. "I constantly am picking her up and kissing her and hugging her."

The new mom is still shaken by the shooting, gasping to choke back tears as she recalled hearing the news.

"Before I even knew that anyone had died, before I even knew that anyone had been shot, I was bawling; just to know that gunfire had happened anywhere near a school in Newtown affected me," she said through tears. "This town is so small and it's such a tight community and everyone knows everyone so it's just, it just doesn't happen here. It just doesn't happen in this town."

Chris Roman, 36, said there's "a big hole to fill that will never be filled" in the community, and he hopes for change so that the only tricky conversation he'll have to have with his young daughter in the future is "the birds and the bees talk."

"It's something that we all have to deal with and work together and try to stop it from happening so I wouldn't have to explain it to her," he said of school shootings.

Other parents echoed the Romans' sentiments.

Maureen Pendergast is the mother of 11-month-old James and her 8-year-old nephew is a student at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"It's absolutely terrible," Pendergast said. "My nephew, Brian, was in the school when it did happen and James goes to day care right down the street here, so it's hard to say [Lanza] didn't stop into the day care."

She said Brian is "as OK as he can be" and that his parents are planning on putting him in counseling. Pendergast knows that healing will take time, but she plans on sticking it out.

"I want to stay," she said. "Overall, it's a very cute and quiet town. My husband has lived here his entire life and I like it. It's a tough community."

Others are equally committed, including Ana Deaguiar of nearby Danbury.

"I'm not going anywhere," Deaguiar, mother of 16-month-old Giovanni, said. "I've spent 11 years in Danbury and I don't think about moving at all. I want him to grow up here and not let this be the only memory there is of this state and this region."

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