Newtown lawmaker tells press, ‘It’s time to step off’
One of the state legislators who represents Newtown admonished the press during a memorial Wednesday in the General Assembly, insisting it was time to give the community stunned by last week’s massacre space to grieve.
“The community is feeling that the press really needs to step off and let the community grieve, let them bury their loved ones,” said Rep. DebraLee Hovey, a Republican from neighboring Monroe. “Come back in six months and tell the story of the love and faith of this community.”
Hovey, who is one of three representatives and one senator who represent Newtown, said the community understood the rush to cover the story and inform the state and nation about the attack that left 20 children and six educators dead in Sandy Hook Elementary School.
But as Newtown painfully goes through a succession of funerals, the media needs to withdraw, she said.
“The people of my communities have asked that I ask the press to please leave our towns,” she said, addressing the joint session of the General Assembly, where Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and others spoke about the attack. “The story is over. The families are burying their loved ones.”
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, who represents Newtown and has attended several funerals, said later he though the press was generally respectful, even as its huge presence was no doubt overwhelming in the town of 27,500.
But Hovey, who says she attended four funerals and two wakes in the past two days, told reporters after the funeral she has heard pleas for restraint.
“When you are going to a funeral of a just-turned 6-year-old, and you have a line of 30 or 40 telephoto lenses focused on those going into that funeral, with siblings that are having tremendous difficulty, who needed to go out on the little porch, catch their breath, cry some tears, have a Coke, drink a glass of water, whatever, and the press is right there in these grieving families faces, I think the press needs to think about their ethics, their humanity, their obligation to society,” she said.
Television coverage has reflected a sense of those raw feelings, with some networks and stations taking pains to report they are not photographing wakes and funerals.
The memorial in the House chamber preceded what had been the most pressing concern of the govenor and legislators until the shootings Friday: a special session to adopt a deficit-mitigation plan to close a budget shortall in the current-year budget.
House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, told the joint session that some of the political bickering in the deficit negotiations evaporated Saturday.
“I think the spirit of Sandy Hook was in that room,” Cafero said, describing a negotiatng session that ended late Saturday night. “The spirit of those people brought us to together.”
Other legislators were thinking about the impact of Sandy Hook on a coming debate — the effort planned for early in the 2013 session, which begins Jan. 9, to look at measures to strengthen gun laws and mental health services.
“Going forward, let us work together to change our violent culture, to make our state and country worthy of the memory of those teachers and children,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn.
House Majority Leader J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, who will become the top leader of the House in January, compared the madness of the attack to the “lack of compromise and common sense” that often keeps politicians from coming to a consensus.
“Come together for that common sense that will keep our families, our communities, our children safe,” Sharkey said.
McKinney kept his message more personal. He said a fourth-grade teacher at Sandy Hook, who introduced him to his wife, was one of six teachers in a conference room who eluded the gunman: Five by climbing out a window; a teacher who not able to use that route hid. Another teacher who escaped climbed back inside to be with her.
Malloy, who appeared drawn, spoke last. He recited the names of the six women who died at Sandy Hook, most or all of them trying to protect children. He noted the official state hero and heroine were teachers: Nathan Hale and Prudence Crandall.
“We add to that list today,” he said. “We lost those heroines on that day, as we lost our innocence that this trouble would never come our way, as we lost our profound futures represented by those 20 young children.”
Keith M. Phaneuf contributed to this report.
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