The Blessing of Extraordinary People

shs remember

Many of you already know this, but my kids are students of Sandy Hook School. On Friday, when the joyful learning environment was shattered by violence, my son was in his classroom. He heard screams over the intercom and gunshots. His teacher, to whom I am forever indebted, hurried the students into their safe corner where they ducked down so the shooter wouldn’t see them. Will stayed there, huddled with his classmates, with his back pressed against a cabinet. His teacher comforted the children, keeping them quiet during the horrific chaos. Down the hall, my cousin’s son sat huddled with other students in his kindergarten room while their teacher quietly read stories to keep them calm.

I can’t begin to imagine what those moments were like for Will, our cousin, their friends, teachers, the whole school.

Just across the hall, mere feet from Will’s classroom, first grade teacher Victoria Soto rushed to hide and protect her students.

Miss Soto wasn’t just a hero on December 14. She was someone who had truly touched Will’s life. On his first day of school, this past September, he was the new kid nervous about meeting new friends and finding his place in the new school. Although Miss Soto wasn’t his teacher, he met her and learned that she was friends with his teacher from last year — something that connected and bonded them. With her warm welcoming, Will immediately felt at home in the new place. We were blessed to have her in his life.

Will asked me on Friday if Miss Soto was okay. He’d seen papers strewn on her floor as he was evacuated and worried. On Saturday morning, I had to tell him that Miss Soto had not survived. “But we didn’t get to finish the lava game,” he said. “We were supposed to finish the lava game with her on Friday. Now we never will.”

I can’t hug Will tight enough or tell him enough times that I love him. I can’t take this pain from him or erase the horrific things he heard and experienced that day. I can only be there and reassure him as best I can.

As news trickled on Friday and Saturday, I had no choice but to tell my kids as we learned about the passing of so many from our community. This was our school, our people. Dawn Hochsprung, our principal, wasn’t just an enthusiastic educator. She was someone who was in the classrooms, getting excited with the kids. She was a vibrant, full-of-life woman whose eyes lit up when she talked about exciting new things happening at the school.

And I think of Mary Sherlach, the school psychologist who I’ve spoken with a few times over the last few months coordinating speech help for Paige. On a recent call, I was so upset for having missed a meeting that she assured me wasn’t important. She was so sweet as she recounted everything I missed, silencing my tears and calming me in the process.

On Friday, as I walked away from the horror with Will and Paige, a friend texted me asking if I could find someone. Our daughters’ former teacher, a dear friend of my family, was worried about her sister, Anne Marie Murphy. We turned around immediately and went back. As much as I wanted to run far away, I couldn’t leave knowing that our friend was so worried. I asked Will’s teachers, then two more teachers, a police officer. No one had seen her. One said she thought (or perhaps hoped? prayed?) that Anne Marie had stayed home that day. Through the day, we prayed. We hoped against hope that our friend’s family would be spared this loss. But in the middle of the night, they received confirmation that she didn’t make it.

And then there are the children. The beautiful children.  My heart aches knowing that 20 little children didn’t get reunited with their parents last Friday. I can’t begin to explain the complex pain that comes with having so much life lost in a place that’s a second home to your kids.

My heart aches. The innocence and belief in safety was shattered on Friday morning. Our school had excellent safety measures in place, but none of that could stop this. Still, amid all this, I am struck by the heroic actions of our teachers. Their actions, words and quick thinking saved so many. Over the last few days, I have been overwhelmed with the love, support and prayers of my family, friends, colleagues, and so many others — people I don’t know from all over the world. Every note, every kind word, every email has touched my heart and helped my family feel a little less alone in the aftermath of this awful event. It’s been a great buoy in a sea of helpless, hopeless, horrific days.

As I stood in our town on Saturday, surrounded by news vans and curious onlookers and shocked families, a woman stepped over and gently said “excuse me.” I smiled, that weak smile I’ve had to dig deep to find this past few days.

“I have sandwiches and water for the first responders, but it looks like the road to the firehouse is closed. Do you know if I can get up there?” she asked. I could have cried or hugged her, because the simple gesture of bringing food for the men and women who helped our children on Friday is so generous. So kind. Instead, I told her to walk and that police who were guarding the road blocks would help get it there.

On Sunday, as our school community gathered for an interfaith service, families hugged each other and shed tears together as we remembered the Sandy Hook 26 — 20 children, 6 adults, all taken too soon. President Barack Obama joined with our local clergy to deliver a respectful, impassioned service that really honors all those who we lost.

Today, our small New England town will begin the raw process of burying the victims of December 14. In the days that come, we will ready a new school and try to regain some thread of normalcy in our lives. But no matter how many days pass, we will also remember the tragedy of last Friday and be bound by our collective panic, grief and devastation. We are shattered. But we will find a way to go on.


Many bloggers have declared today a Day of Silence in honor of our school. It is a small gesture that means so much. As much as I wanted to partake, it just didn’t feel right. Instead, I wanted everyone to know about the extraordinary people that Sandy Hook lost last Friday. Thank you for reading.

Sarah’s Cucina Bella is going to have a little silence of its own now. I’ll be taking some time off to be with my kids over the next few days. Sometime later this week, I have two food-related posts that will run. Thanks for your support and understanding.


  1. says

    Once again, Sarah, I am amazed that you are able to articulate your feelings so beautifully. Words have failed many of us this weekend. Sending you, your family and your community love and light as you recover and heal.

  2. says

    I continue to keep you and everyone in your town in my thoughts, Sarah. This is such a beautiful post and, especially at a time when words are hard to come by. It’s so unreal that anyone should have to go through this and what I truly hope is that no one ever will again.

  3. says

    Once again, I’m in tears. I couldn’t stop thinking about your, your family, and your community this weekend. My heart aches for you. While I’m beyond thrilled that your little ones are safe, it’s clear that no one who was there could possible be “ok”. It’s just not fair for kids that young – or people of any age – to have to witness something like that. I can’t even comprehend it… Sending big hugs your way.

    • Sarah W. Caron says

      Thank you, Lauren. I think we — both the kids and teachers that were there and the parents — need to find out new normal. Things will never be the same again.

  4. says

    My thoughts and prayers are with you, your sweet children and your whole community. My heart aches and grieves for you all. Thank you for your beautiful post.

  5. says

    This is the third time I’ve read this today… thanks for giving us a glimpse into the lives of the heroes who make up your community. My thoughts and prayers go out to you all, friend. Take care.

    • Sarah W. Caron says

      Oh, Kristen, thank you. I really think it’s important that everyone knows these were amazing, wonderful people — and to remember them instead of remembering the lunatic who did this.

  6. says

    Sending loving and healing thoughts your way for you, your family and your community. Thank you for sharing so that the true focus remains insight — the victims and the community the shooter has shattered.

  7. Stacey says

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us. I still cannot comprehend that kind or horror and pain. I pray for restoration and peace over your community.

  8. says

    Thank you for sharing this heartfelt piece. I’m so sorry for what you, your son and your community have had to endure. Please know you’re in our thoughts and prayers.

  9. says

    Oh Sarah, I actually didn’t realize this was your community. It’s like a fresh wound reopened reading the account. I will continue to wish strength to your community at this time. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult these next few weeks will be.

  10. vcdh says

    Dear Sarah, thank you for your post. I am grateful for your personal touch, honest feelings, compassion, and your understanding that others seek understanding too. Thank you for taking the time to share what you have so beautifully expressed. I am so sorry for what you, your children, and your community have experienced, and will continue to process moving forward. Thank you for your ability to grieve and begin healing at the same time. It provides strength for others to do the same — even those of us who may not personally know you or the incredible people of Newtown, but remain nontheless heartbroken on Sandy Hook’s behalf. I appreciated your post very much. It is just what so many of us needed at this time.

  11. Connie says


    I’m glad I finally found your blog and have been enjoying many of your recipes so thank you.

    I am also glad that you are all okay. When news first started to come in I immediately thought of you. Jolynn let me know you were okay. I can’t even imagine being there that day but I pray that God gives you and Will the courage to heal. The whole Sandy Hook community is in my prayers.

    Eva misses Paige so much and talks of her constantly. I am so glad she was not there at that time. Eva sends her a great big hug.

  12. Toni A says

    So beautifully written, Sarah. You are helping everyone to honor and remember those who were so tragically lost and focus on what is important in this life. Thank you for being you.

  13. says

    My thoughts are with you and community. I was horrified learning about the tragedy on Friday and I can’t imagine being that close to what had happened. I’m so glad that you and your family are OK, but so heartbroken by everything that happened. I wish you all the best.

  14. says

    Oh Sarah, the world is grieving with you. I was speaking with a dear friend today and he, out here on the west coast, said, “The world changed on Friday.” We are all treating each other a little kinder, looking at each day together as the gift that it is.

    This morning I was in my nieces’ elementary school, to watch them do a musical performance, and just looking at all those children–the same age as those who have been lost–I was blinking back tears. The heart breaks, over and over again.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Sending you and everyone there so much love, and hope for healing.

  15. says

    Words just utterly fail me. I am so glad you and your children are okay, and so heartbroken for the losses. Devastating scarcely begins to describe it.

    Sending you our thoughts and prayers.

  16. Danielle R says

    Im praying for your family and the family’s of your town. I as a mother of 4 elementary school kids all the way in California cried for all the precious lives lost. Im so happy that your kids are ok and am sad that your son lost a friend in a teacher ( the wonderful Ms Soto ) and your family friend =(. Ms Soto’s sister crying on my tv is something I will not soon forget along with the pictures of all the beautiful children. Just wanted to send a message of prayer and peace we as a nation hurt with all of you =( Prayers from California.

  17. says

    Thank you for this beautiful post. Elise from Simply Recipes shared this on Facebook and I was fortunate to come across it. My thoughts, light, love and prayers are with you, your family, and all those who have suffered in this. Again, thank you for sharing your story.

  18. says

    Thank you for this gentle and searing account of these past few days. There is so much goodness in your community. We are listening and grieving with you as you adjust in slow motion to this new normal. Your town, your children, your teachers, the loss of live, of innocence have changed us. I hope you will continue to share your experience, strength and hope here.

  19. says

    None of us can imagine the horror that your community is enduring at this time, but you are all in our thoughts, especially the families who lost loved ones. It was impossible to hold back tears at mass last Sunday when the priest pointed out a beautiful shrine someone had constructed with 20 white angels and 6 crosses, which will be transferred to the nativity scene this Christmas. All we can do is pray, and we are.
    God bless you, your family and your town.

  20. Casey says

    Dear Sarah,

    It is amazing that you can write so eloquently while living through such devastation. Your words will help us all, in different ways, to heal and come together. I continue to hold your family and your community in my heart, and only wish there was more I could do. Thank you for your strength.


  21. says

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I cannot begin to comprehend the pain that your community is going through, but you sharing your story in such a touching and beautiful way helps.

  22. says

    I am so sorry for your losses. My heart breaks for you, your children, and the entire Newtown community. Please know that so many of us, both here in New England and around the globe, are silently hugging each of you in this hour of tragedy.

  23. says

    What happened is heartbreaking. You expressed your feelings so eloquently, and the way you have honored the teachers who gave their lives to protect the children is very moving. Blessings and peace to you and your family.

  24. says

    There are no words to describe a tragedy like this, just tears. Having seen both of my six-year-old grandchildren off to school on Friday here in New Jersey, I, like so many others, have just been devastated by this horrific event. Love and peace to you, your family and your community.

  25. says

    There are no words to say how truly heartbroken and saddened I am for your community. Nothing is adequate. Love and prayers for strength is all I have to offer. I wish I could do more.

  26. says

    I live in the Pacific Northwest, far away from you and from this terrible tragedy. As I go about my day, people all over my city are openly broken- hearted and mourning over the loss of these precious babies and their teachers. It is on my heart to write to you…to SOMEONE… to send my love and to tell all of you, that we, all this far away, hear your voice and feel so sorry for your loss. We are standing with you. We are hoping for love to cover over you. We are hoping and praying for healing to soak in and give you rest.God’s Best Blessings for you and yours.


  27. says

    As a mother of three, I find myself crying randomly for those precious lives lost and for the surviving families. Although I’m across the nation in California, please find some comfort that you are not alone and the whole nation truly grieves with you and your community. My family’s love and prayers are with all of Newtown.

  28. says

    Hi Sarah. I didn’t know your kids go to Sandy Hook. I’m so sorry for all of your losses. Even though we haven’t talked much, I see your name all the time for BlogHer Book Club and those threads of Internet connect us all in such unexpected ways. I remember when Gabby Giffords was shot and I realized I had syndicated Ashleigh Burroughs, aka Suzi Hileman, who was shot that day, as well. And now here you are.

    This thing is just so unimaginable, so horrific. The one comfort is that you have felt the outpouring — I do believe that 99% of people mean the world no harm and I hope you are feeling the 99% who are nothing but shocked and angered and horrified and so, so sorry about what has happened to your community.

  29. says

    Hi Sarah,
    What a moving a beautifully written piece. I feel like I have watched your kids grow up, so as soon as I heard the name of the school in this horrific incident, their faces came to my mind. I am so glad they have a mother like you who can help them cope with the tragedy that has touched their young lives.

    And take as much time off as you need during this time of healing.
    With love,

  30. says

    Sarah, since Friday people have been saying that “there are no words.”

    I so admire you for being able to find those words and share them here with us.

    This post is beautifully written. Thank you for writing it.

    Please know you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  31. says

    This hollow feeling, this empty ache and sadness in our hearts… we try to make sense of it all, but we can’t, because it’s senseless. Wishing I could hug your whole town, wrap you all up in my arms and let you know how truly sorry I am. We lit our last Hanukkah candles over the weekend, and a room full of friends and family sent prayers of comfort and healing to Newtown. Thank you for sharing your story. We grieve with you.

  32. says

    Your post was recommended to me on Google+ by another blogger. While I don’t know if I can handle reading or seeing one more thing, how could I ignore something from the perspective of someone who had children there that day? I am moved to tears. I don’t know if I would have the strength to speak of the even if I had had a loved one in that building. It is beautiful of you to speak their names and remember them. I will pray for your family, your children, and, of course, those who lost loved ones that day as I have every day since.

  33. says

    goodness! this is just so touching. thanks for sharing. give your kiddos super hugs–so hard to imagine experiencing such chaotic tragedy at their ages. the stories of the teachers are so wonderful–i hope i would have been that brave and kind when i was teaching so many years ago. have your kiddos give you hugs, too!!!!!!!!!!

  34. says

    I got to read your very moving post through my association with Kalyn Denny
    I live in New Zealand and I can assure you the people of my country are mourning with you over this terrible event.
    Thank you for sharing your pain.
    Thinking of you all, over what should be the happiest time of the year

  35. Sarah McDonald says

    Thank you for your post. It is as beautiful as it is devastatingly sad. I want you to know that friends and I in Oregon are writing letters to everyone we can think of asking for strengthening of the gun laws. It started as a 20 children, 6 adults = 26 letters movement but I alone sent out over 30 last night. And we won’t stop this time. This time we’ll write again in a month or 2 when the talk of change dies down. It’s the least we can do to honor all of you at Sandy Hook.

  36. says

    Sarah – Thank you for this thoughtful and beautiful post and inside look at your experience with this tragedy. I admire your strength to write such a touching article. My thoughts and prayers are with you, your son, your cousin and your entire community.

  37. says

    Read this via Kathy from Noble Pig’s facebook page.
    So very sorry for your entire community.

    What a beautiful post. Had no idea you were located in Ct.
    Thank you for sharing this.

    A fellow food blogger with the same last name.
    Stacey Caron

  38. says

    Our thoughts and prayers go out to the town of Newtown. Such a devastating event – thank you for sharing your personal experience. We live just a few towns over from Newtown and have friends who have lost loved ones. May you all find peace and healing over time.

  39. says

    Sarah- my heart goes out to you and your family and all of the families in your school and town. I have thought about you daily since that horrific day. I’m a former teacher, so this all really hits home for me. There are really no words. Just know that there are so many people out here who are praying for peace and comfort and healing for you all. If there is absolutely anything that we can manage to do as a community to help… I hope you’ll let us know. XO

  40. says

    Thanks so much for sharing this glimpse into your life and the lives of those lost. The connections, even from the other coast, are strong. But no matter how much we read or how many people we know through others, I can’t begin to imagine what last Friday was like and what each day is like going forward. But this helps me to understand. It was a beautiful piece – so much more enlightening than so many of the sensationalized news coverage. Thank you for sharing and know that we all hope that the process of “going on” is a little brighter each day.

  41. says

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience in such a sorrowful and painful time. It brought tears to my eyes. I send love and hopes for healing for you, your family and your community. If there is anything we can do to lend you support please let us know.

  42. says

    Praying for your family and the entire Newtown community, Sarah. Even though many miles separate my small town from yours, as a mom of 5 kids ages 5 to 10, my heart is absolutely torn in two over this. There are just no words…

  43. Melissa says


    I have followed your blog for a few years now from Washington State. As I heard about the horrific events that day I wondered how close the school was to where you live. Because of the holidays and how busy I had been, I had not looked at your blog until this evening. I sat here crying as I read every one of your writings. My heart breaks for you, your family and your entire community. I simply cannot imagine how you felt that day. I know how I felt, as a mom, on the other side of the country as soon as I heard and didn’t have a dry eye the rest of the day or for days after every time I thought about the children and the community.

    Please know we are thinking about and praying for all of you and hope our strength can be felt from so many miles away.

  44. km says

    Thinking of you today. I know that this will be a very long day. I hope your children have a wonderful time at the new school and that, for you, it doesn’t seem like the day is 56 hours long:) Hugs from another CT mother.


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