Karl Decker spent 40 years as a Staples English instructor. In “retirement,” he’s a very active photographer and writer.
Karl lives in Monroe, not far from Newtown. Today, he volunteered at the crisis center in that devastated town. He wrote to family and friends:
Just back from the crisis center, the huge Newtown Middle School. I got there just before 10. The place was packed. Police there, but in low profile. Got hugged by the town’s youth officer. No media allowed. I went in, saw the DCF people, made myself known, signed the sign-up sheet for on-call counselors. I signed up for 24/7.
But as I left, my job brought itself to me: to greet people as they started walking across the parking lot from their cars. It happened at once. A family was walking towards me and I approached them and said, “My name is Karl. I’m a counselor. May I walk you to the entrance?” I had no refusals. And that was my routine until 3:30 when things thinned down, the sun fell behind clouds and a chilly wind came up.
In the 30 seconds it took to walk to the doors, I heard all the stories: “My son’s little buddy was killed…we know the family of…the teacher was at our house for dinner a week ago…we used to live in Sandy Hook…my daughter doesn’t know what happened yet, how do I tell her…I just wanted to be with people today…” And some just in silence…
Little children, moms and burly firemen fathers held my hand the length of the walk…and there was a therapy dog (from Vermont!) outside, too, which we all stopped to pat. I’d take them to the door, turn them over to DCF and get back out for the next ones…groups of kids from the high school, the high school football captain came alone and then, after noon, counselors, psychologists began to arrive to volunteer–they came from all over–Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York City, Rhode Island, towns in Fairfield County. Some asked me for directions to a motel so they could stay in case called.
Two unusually well-groomed and lovely young women arrived in a car with Maryland plates, I approached them as I did the others and they turned out to be from the FBI. Their jackets read “FBI Incident Investigations.” But mostly moms, dads, grandparents, families one after the other. Then the food arrived. A truckload of pizzas, two SUVs from Panera’s, cases of water, a portable coffee canteen, ice cream, and a cafeteria was set up. Families bringing food. Flowers.
And then there was a little boy named Casey who I’d walked in with, who on his way out came over to show me the drawing (there was a big children’s therapy room with food, art supplies, etc.) he had made of his friends… A row of colorful figures in joined hands with smiles and hats and toys and one figure, only in black and white, clearly a skeleton. A man brought out a ham and cheese sandwich and hot coffee for me.
So there are some fragments of the day. I do not know what tomorrow’s schedule will be, but I’ll be somewhere anyway.