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Wilton Reflects on Sandy Hook Tragedy

Two parents shed their insights into how the community can recover and move forward from the second worst shooting in American history.

It’s not yet been a week since the tragedy at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School that resulted in the loss of 26 innocent lives, including those of 20 young children. 

In Wilton—and across the country—parents are struggling to make sense of what happened, as all Americans are trying to figure out what can be done to prevent such a senseless massacre from happening again.

Paul Nisco, the father of children at Wilton High School, Middlebrook and Cider Mill, shared his thoughts about the tragedy with Patch earlier this week. He said that coupled with the death of Svetlana Bell, it’s been a tough time for Wilton’s young ones.

“We’ve had to explain to our kids that very bad things can happen,” Nisco said. “It’s really unfortunate.”

Nisco said when he first saw the news of Friday’s massacre breaking, his heart stopped. The first headlines, he said, just relayed that a school shooting had happened in Connecticut. It didn’t specify precisely where.

“At first, I was just thinking I hope it’s not Wilton or any of the closer towns,” he said. “Unfortunately, the news got worse and worse. My wife and I are heartbroken over it.”

Nisco said his wife is a preschool teacher, so the news hit very close to home.

“They’re babies,” he said of the children who were killed. “It’s senseless. It makes absolutely no sense that this can happen in our society. I think a line has been crossed with this particular crime.”

Nisco said he wasn’t sure if he was happy with the response of Wilton’s schools earlier this week.

On Monday, Ridgefield and Redding schools were placed on lockdown after receiving a report of a suspicious man walking near Branchville Elementary School in Ridgefield. The report indicated the man might have been carrying a sword or a rifle. Ultimately, he was carrying an umbrella, but police arrested him and charged him with breach of peace.

“I don’t know why Wilton didn’t feel the need to go on lockdown,” he said. “I’m pleased they’re putting a police presence [at the schools] now. I know they have a security system in place at the schools, but if you bring in a high-powered rifle, you can get in.”

On the other hand, Faith Filiaut, a parent of a student at Wilton High School, expressed her appreciation of the schools’ response on Facebook.

“I think the schools are doing a fabulous job today and have kept families informed of precautions,” she said. “I have to trust those who protect my daughter while she is in school.”

Filiaut did wonder what other precautions the schools were taking to help students with developmental disabilities.

Though he hopes things will change in the wake of tragedy, Nisco admitted he’s a bit cynical.

“My mind is telling me the politics will take over and we’re going to be stuck with nothing changing,” he said. “I would like to see stricter laws come in to play in regards to assault weapons. I don’t see any place in the civilian world for assault-type weapons.”

Nisco said he believes in the 2nd Amendment, but doesn’t think anyone really needs assault weapons. If a ban were to save the life of one child, Nisco said, it’s the right thing to do.

“They’re only meant for one purpose, and that’s to kill,” he said of assault weapons. “They’re meant to inflict harm—harm in a very rapid and immediate and certain manner.”

Filiaut said gun control needs to be discussed, but now’s not the time.

“The conversation has to happen, but for today, this week, over the holidays, I feel our focus needs to be on healing,” she said. “Each one of us will heal differently, and use different tools. Now is the time to support each person’s way of healing.”

In addition to gun control laws, Nisco said the country needs to have a “serious debate about mental illness.”

“There’s too many drugs out there that are being prescribed by doctors,” he said. “We have a culture of violence that’s pervaded our society. It’s getting worse and worse. “

While technology and the Internet has advanced culture in many ways, it’s “opened up a Pandora’s Box with an element we can’t seem to put in check,” Nisco said. To make things worse, Hollywood and the video game industry are both “constantly selling violence.”

Technology and a culture that revels in instant gratification can spell disaster as well.

“Those two elements combined are creating a very, very dangerous, slippery slope,” he said.

The question becomes, Nisco said, whether we want to live in a society where we have police officers in grade schools.

“Going forward, we need to figure out what to do to make our schools safer; that’s the toughest question,” he said. “I’m afraid the bar now has been set. There’s someone out there who will say I’m sick enough and I want to beat that one. Something’s got to change. If nothing changes, then those poor babies will have died in vain. We need to make sure those kids, those teachers that gave up their lives died for a purpose, that some good will come out of this. That’s what I’m hoping for.” 

Alina Rodescu-Pitchon December 20, 2012 at 01:53 PM
I think you have to be extremely careful to not profile here. It is NOT children with developmental disabilities that one has to watch out for. They are some of the gentlest and least violent people. One has to watch for ANY child, typical or not, that exhibits depression, isolation or violent tendencies. Picking out certain groups will only make matters worse and create stigmas and division.
Lorna December 20, 2012 at 04:20 PM
To put children with autism or Asberger's syndrome "under the microscope" is misplaced action, as I agree completely, Alina. I think we all need to reach out to those who are socially isolated, as you stated, and especially those who are bullying victims. Those were the ones behind the Colombine massacre, and perhaps the former was behind the VA Tech tragedy. I also hope that parents who buy violent video games for their children are reconsidering their judgement. Can't you help but wonder if these games cheapen the value of human life in their immature eyes? Finally, I hope that our legislators will realize that there is no need for assault-capable guns and ammo outside of the hands of the military and law enforcement. It sickens me to see how the 2nd Amendment, drafted and adopted in a completely different time and set of circumstances (who in the U.S. needs a militia these days?), can be twisted to justify the whims of the NRA and their supporters. If Nancy Lanza had not owned an arsenal, and instead considered adopting an intimidating dog and investing in a sophisticated alarm system to protect her assets, perhaps all those killed last Friday might be alive today.
Heather Borden Herve December 20, 2012 at 07:21 PM
I want to make sure to clarify something, because I think you're both referring to Faith Filiaut's quote. Please know that Ms. Filiaut is an advocate for children with special needs--professionally and personally. Her statement was intended to reflect the importance of making sure children with different developmental and physical needs were considered when it came to helping them process the news in the days after the Newtown shootings, and in the way the schools should consider the needs of that population in the district when it comes time to re-evaluate and improve security, as they are hopefully sure to do. I am sure her comment means 'be protective OF' and not 'protect AGAINST'.

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