Hand-drawn cards, letters of sympathy and all other sentiments mailed from as far away as the Netherlands and California will soon adorn the homes of Sandy Hook residents.
First Selectman E. Patricia Llodra said Tuesday that the 125,000 pieces of mail sent to Newtown after the Dec. 14 school shooting will be offered first to families of victims killed that day and school staff.
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Starting Sunday, families of the 20 children and six female educators killed that day, along with Sandy Hook Elementary School staff, will have one week to put sticky notes expressing their interest in keeping items lining the hall at Newtown Municipal Center.
One week later, starting Feb. 3, all other Sandy Hook families and staff at other Newtown schools will have a chance to lay claim to the mail. And in a third week, starting Feb. 10, the rest of Newtown's residents will be invited to sort through and pick mail.
Remaining items will have the same fate as the roadside memorials that Newtown public works employees rounded up in late December and early January, Llodra said. The organic material will be composted as "sacred soil," and other materials will be ground up and mixed with a cement slurry which will be made into blocks. Town officials hope to use the blocks and soil as part of a permanent memorial.
The hallway at the Newtown's municipal center is a gallery of sympathy and compassion. Brightly colored rainbows, garlands of origami birds, a proclamation from Aurora, Colo., and tens of thousands of letters are in boxes lining the walls.
Pallets of mail filled the room where Newtown's board of selectmen meet, and about 50 volunteers worked to open and sort every piece, Llodra said. It was important to take time with each sentiment received, Llodra said, because people had taken the time to make something.
Some pieces are nearly 8 feet tall. And the municipal center is just the start. Another building on Trades Lane is full of mail, including a massive wooden cross from a Rhode Island woodworker and boxes of letters.
Additionally, the town received stuffed animals, toys and school supplies that fill a warehouse on Simm Lane.