Guest Blogger: Stephanie Cinque, Founder And Executive Director, Resiliency Center Of Newtown

On that fateful December morning, I was working as a social worker in the Public Defender’s office, and was attending the 9AM children’s mass with my children and family at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown. I began to grow increasingly distressed by the shrill of emergency vehicles racing past the church, just over a mile from Sandy Hook Elementary School. I knew it was something bad just by the sirens, one after another, unprecedented for a small town like this. My first concern was for my kids. Shortly after the schools went into lock down, we became aware of what was actually happening. How can this be real?

It became a moment where my life as a mother crossed into my professional life. At that point, I knew I had to do something. I asked myself, how does a community heal? Slowly. Communities do not heal rapidly, however they are forced to move forward very quickly. Every one tells them they must – the media, the government, friends, relatives and even others within the community. However, communities are only mended when its individual constituents begin to heal – one at a time. The brokenness we feel as a town resides in each of us. When we, as individuals, decide to fix that brokenness we begin to heal. When one person starts this journey, others around them see the happiness that can be had… again. No one will ever forget, but it is possible to feel the joy that we all had in us before it happened. The sadness and sorrow will always remain, but we can remove the pain. As those in the community get better, others will get better, and we will see the community as a whole begin to heal.

I drew on my contacts and reached out to another organization, Tuesday’s Children, which continues to help those impacted by the events of 9/11. They helped me replicate their long-term model so I can help those within my own community.

The essence of a community is the fellowship that serves as its foundation. While its members must heal as individuals, we as the community must help to facilitate and support this. People helping people. There is no single method that works for everyone, which is why we opened the Resiliency Center of Newtown.

Resiliency Center of Newtown is a privately funded, non-profit organization that offers a safe, gathering place for anyone in the community who was impacted that day. We offer free and confidential services ranging from therapy (play, art, music, and traditional) to educational workshops, wellness events and community outreach. The goal is to give individuals an outlet that is not intimidating and trauma-informed so that people feel safe to tell their story and begin and continue to heal.

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Testimonial from a Sandy Hook Mother of 2nd grader who was in the Resiliency Center of Newtown running program:

When we got home today from the race she ran into the kitchen where North, our Elf on the Shelf, was hanging out. She excitedly told him “North, today was the best day of my LIFE!” She told him all about the race and how much she loved it. This girl has come a long way from where she was on 12/14/12! She came home from school that day pretty much shattered. She was just an empty shell. I didn’t know if we were ever going to get her back. For weeks she looked pale, had no interest in anything, wouldn’t eat, and had no ambition or joy. Everything frightened her. It’s been a really rough year. Today was like a reawakening in her! I want to thank you so much for bringing this program to us! She has loved it so much! She has pushed herself further than ever before and she is so proud of herself – and so are we! She’s already looking forward to her next race! It was awesome! Thanks.

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Photos courtesy of Ike’s Atomic Trailer and Resiliency Center of Newtown.