Like others, Beth Iszard Swift was sickened by the carnage committed in Newtown, Conn.
But unlike her fellow Buffalo residents, Swift knew that bucolic community firsthand: She grew up there, moving to Newtown from nearby Monroe at age 8 until she went off to college in 1978. And she later lived in Sandy Hook, a part of Newtown. A sister and her family still live in nearby Woodridge.
“I was just horrified. It was ungraspable,” said Swift, when she learned of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 26 people – 20 of them children – Dec. 14.
Dawn Hochsprung, the school principal killed by Adam Lanza, had previously been vice principal at the middle school attended by Swift’s niece.
In response to the terrible tragedy, Swift, a graduate of Newtown High School, her brother and sister have banded together with nearly 60 other Newtown public school graduates from around the world to raise funds for mental health counseling and other community needs.
“Like everything – like in the Colorado [movie theater] shooting and these other mass shootings – the world moves on. But for the people Newtown and Sandy Hook, it’s a tragedy that will always be with them,” Swift said.
“There were a lot of funds raised for memorials, which is great, but our mission at Newtown Alumni Fund is to make sure that our funding will help those survivors with counseling and any kind of recovery they may need, from students and teachers to first responders.”
Swift said she explored Newtown just last summer, revisiting old haunts.
“I drove around for a good 2½ hours, past our old house and my schools. I hadn’t done it in a long time. It was a really great place to grow up,” Swift said.
While the town’s layout remained the same, she said the town looked better, because its historic buildings – Newtown was incorporated 302 years ago – were being better maintained “architecturally and preservation-wise.”
Swift said the community – locals and expatriates – is determined to help Newtown get through this terrible ordeal.
“We’re saying, ‘We are Newtown.’ That is the catchphrase. People are sticking together, and doing what they can for people. It’s a lot like Buffalo in that sense.”
Funds raised by Newtown Alumni Fund are being channeled through the Newtown Rotary. To donate, go to newtownalumnifund.org, or make a check to Newtown Rotary Club, Sandy Hook School Fund, with Newtown Alumni Fund marked in the memo section, and mailed to Newtown Alumni Fund, P.O. Box 3217, Newtown, CT 06470.