The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

August 31, 2013

With parade, Newtown reflects 'how we're healing'

ATHENS — NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — Ten thousand decisions go into creating a big, boisterous parade. No one knows that better than Robin Buchanan, who for years has juggled the lineup at the Labor Day parade that has jubilantly closed out every Newtown summer for more than five decades.

But never before had this happened: Calls and emails from regulars, folks who always marched, concerned about the most basic decision of all.

"Are you going to have a parade," they asked her, "this year?"

This year.

Meaning: After the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, after the eulogies for 20 first-graders and six educators, amid the drumbeat of news stories across the country and hushed conversations around town, all adding up — still — to incomprehension.

A parade, this year?

On an icy evening back in January, barely a month after the shootings, a small group met with sad hugs to confront that question.

It's always been a daunting task for the Labor Day Parade Committee to map out the two-hour extravaganza — to arrange the vintage warplane flyovers or get the stagecoach that's pulled by four matched horses or the ballfield-size American flag, or whatever, to make sure of security and to hash out ways to pay the bills.

But this time, the committee members — two of whom serve out of devotion even though they're divorced from each other — sat hollow-eyed under the fluorescent lights of a bank conference room. Outside, handmade memorials still fluttered on lampposts. The funerals were still raw memories.

How could you focus on a parade? Who would be the grand marshal, a happy honor normally but surely a heavy burden this time around? What would the theme be? Could it be anything but a memorial? But if so, what kind of parade is that?

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