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“Ten years. Life and blink.”

The flowers lay beside the Charlotte Bacon name, a stone carved monument dedicated to shooting victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Sunday, November 13, 2022. Bryan Woolston / AP Photo

NEWTOWN, Connecticut (AP) – Bouquets of flowers floated counterclockwise in the waters of a circular memorial pool, past the engraved names of 20 first graders and six teachers killed a short distance away at Sandy Hook Elementary School nearly 10 years ago.

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The long-awaited monument to the victims officially opened to the public on Sunday, drawing visitors throughout the day. There was no ceremony, following the Newtown tradition of silent reflection to commemorate anniversaries and other memorabilia of the shooting.

“It’s just breathtaking,” said Nora Smith, a resident of nearby Monroe, who visited the memorial with her husband Kevin. “It’s something you hold close to your heart because you feel bad about these families.”

The path from the small parking lot leads down the hill to the bonfire of the monument – an artificially created fountain with a sycamore tree growing from the island in the center. 26 names are carved into the top of the stone wall supporting the pool. The property is surrounded by a paved walkway and its outer ring is lined with Susan’s black-eyed flowers. Other paths lead past various plantings on the site.

After fallen leaves, the new Sandy Hook School is now visible from the memorial site. The new school was built on the same property, but not in the same shape as the old one, which was demolished after the shooting on December 14, 2012.

Victims of relatives were offered a private tour on Saturday. Others, including Jennifer Hubbard, had visited before for a private meeting. Her daughter, Catherine Violet Hubbard, 6, was one of the children who died in the shootout.

“It took my breath away in the sense that seeing Catherine’s name and seeing what was created in honor of those who lost … families, those who survived – lost their innocence,” she said. “And the community. We all suffered from December 14th.

“I think the monument is so perfectly positioned to honor and provide a place of contemplation and reflection for a day that really changed the country,” said Hubbard, who is currently executive director of Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary in Newtown.

Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose 6-year-old daughter Ana Grace Marquez-Greene was killed in the shootout, took her on Twitter on Saturday to thank those who had worked for years on planning the monument.

“Ten years. Life and a twinkle,” she wrote. “Ana Grace, we waited for you to come home. Now you are waiting for us. Take care, baby. Take care.”

Several guests refused to speak to several reporters present on Sunday. Others discussed their thoughts but refused to give out their full names, saying that the day was about the victims. Many Newtown residents fear the sheer volume of media that floods the city on each anniversary of the shooting.

“It’s a difficult day,” said the woman with tearful eyes as she returned to her vehicle after seeing the monument.

From time to time, city policemen stopped at the site where the surveillance cameras are also located.

Visitors can see the monument for the first time in the small parking lot that overlooks the grounds. At the start of the path leading down the hill, a plaque greets visitors and includes a quote from former President Barack Obama from his speech on the Newtown Vigil two days after the shooting.

“Here in Newtown, I come to offer the people’s love and prayers,” says Obama. “I am very aware that words alone cannot match the depth of your sadness, nor can they heal wounded hearts.

“I can only hope this will help you know that you are not alone in your grief; that our world has also been torn apart; that in all this our land we have cried with you “- says the board.

City voters last year approved $ 3.7 million for the cost of the monument. Much of the cost was reimbursed when the State Bonds Commission approved the city to donate $ 2.5 million for the project.

The project faced several challenges after the city created a special commission to oversee memory planning in the fall of 2013. Some proposed venues were rejected, including one near the hunting club where shots were heard, and officials cut the project’s costs down from $ 10 million over fears that voters would not approve it.

City officials say the monument will open as long as weather permits this winter and then reopen in spring.

For Newtown First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, the city’s supreme official, the monument is both a silent and intense tribute to those killed in the shootout.

“When you are in a depression on the water’s edge, the weather is very calm there,” he said. “You stand by this body of water and the size of … There are 26 gable stones on the edge of the water, it’s quite overwhelming.”

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