The most direct way to Sandy Hook is to take Exit 10 off of I-84 if you are heading east, Exit 11 if coming west. An anomaly or oddity (or maybe both) is that there is no Exit 12. We all know hotels have no 13th floor due to triskaidekaphobia but if you really want confuse someone, tell them to get off of I-84 at Exit 12. Now, how many times has that trick been played on in-laws? I digress...
At Exit 10, make a left at the light (unless you are in the mood for the Newtown Diner... in which case go right - and to see the famous Newtown Flagpole, continue up the hill). The road curves a bit, some real old colonial homes to the left and right (1780's?) and then descends fairly quickly down to the small but vibrant heart of Sandy Hook. It is no more than a small village.
I first made this drive in July 2004 and can still see the Sandy Hook Diner on the right, the Subway on the left with its outdoor deck overlooking the river and the single stoplight that defines all small American towns straight ahead.
Continue through the light (after fording the mighty Pootatuck River) and up the hill for a mile or so and back in the woods on the left is a tiny one room "cottage" that I rented in the summer of 2004. Let me say it had a certain charm but it was not for everyone. Bingo and I liked it, it was rustic and manly. Once you got past the tea-colored water and the noises in the woods... Sheila and the kids joined me in October and it was a mite cramped. At night the boys thought the shadow of the small desk lamp was Darth Vader and it was there they experienced their first real New England snow. The cold drafts that came in in all directions made us long for Texas. I remember listening to playoff baseball on static-filled AM radio as the Red Sox made an improbable comeback to beat the Yankees and go on to win the 2004 World Series, retiring the Curse.
Back in Sandy Hook I availed of the laundromat, the barbershop and whatever other amenities were on offer. Every evening I would take Bingo for a walk at Fairfield Hills in Newtown (a) because it had wide open lawns for dog business and (b) it had good cell service for calling back to Round Rock. The irony of ironies is that Fairfield Hills was once a major psychiatric hospital with over 4,000 patients. It closed in 1995, some seventeen years before the ghastly events of December 14, 2012.
Back in the "Hook", if you headed north along Glen Road about 1/3 of a mile you will encounter a small machine shop on the right. It was here that a beagle Mom & Dad consummated their love and Tex was the progeny. So our courageous little canine is Sandy Hooker. Continue along Glen Road and towards the metal bridge, you would be rewarded with a beautiful view if the Housatonic River and pretty wooded hills in every direction.
On Riverside Road and nestled in the woods near the firehouse (almost everything in CT is hidden in the woods) was a small ball field, charmingly under-developed, where Kevin once played baseball. If a ball was fouled off, it was gone. The woods were the backstop and we were loathe to challenge the poison ivy. A Big Papi home-run away (through the woods of course) is Sandy Hook Elementary School. I drove by it at least twice every day for three months and never gave it a second thought. It is now on the lips of every American and indeed most of the world.
It will become synonymous with many of the issues that ravage / define our society: gun safety, mental health, divorce, video games, the Second Amendment, absentee parents, not knowing your neighbor, drugs, alienation, hatred... the list goes on. Quiet little Sandy Hook has joined Columbine, Aurora, Utoya (Norway), Hungerford and Dunblane.
Our hearts are filled with sadness and we pray for the kids and teachers who died so tragically last week.