Families try to deal with news

By Kathryn Powley

Kiwi near massacre says town will be shell-shocked.

Peter and Andrea Andrew with Gregory.  Photo / Supplied
Peter and Andrea Andrew with Gregory. Photo / Supplied

Kiwis near the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut are struggling to explain to their children what has happened, and why.

Peter Andrew is a New Zealander living in Newtown, Connecticut, not far from the Sandy Hook massacre.

He's married to an American, Andrea, and they have an 8-year-old son, Gregory. Peter, 56, is an IT manager, Andrea a primary school teacher.

Today, they are bracing themselves to hear the names of the dead released because they're bound to know someone affected. Their house is only a 10-minute drive from Sandy Hook.

Like all schools in the area, Gregory's Middle Gate Elementary was in lock-down for much of yesterday. After hearing the first reports of the unfolding atrocity, Peter and Andrea rushed to collect him from his after-school care. Andrea got there first, having been warned none of the children knew what was going on.

Gregory got in the car and said: "I want to know what happened." She told him.

He was worried about his friends there. "What do you tell an 8-year-old? We'll cross that bridge when it comes," she told the Herald on Sunday.

On the drive home, Gregory posed an impossible question: Why had it happened? Andrea replied: "Some people are just evil in this world, and they do evil things."

"What happened to him?" he asked. She told him she thought he'd killed himself.

Gregory pondered this and said: "He realised it was such a terrible thing, and there was no way he could fix it. The only way he could fix it was to punish himself." Andrea thinks he's right.

Peter, born and raised in Gisborne, has lived in Newtown since 2000. Other mass shootings - Virginia Tech, Columbine - have hardly affected him.

"Now, I feel absolutely devastated. I've never felt like this before. It pulls the rug from under your feet. Because it's such a small town, we know it's going to hit us in the face in the next few days. We're all sitting here absolutely shell-shocked."

Peter said Newtown's police were more used to dealing with traffic offences and domestic disputes.

"Newtown is a very close community. The town is small enough that everybody is going to know at least one person who's been affected. The population is about 27,000."

One of his friends was head of the town's volunteer ambulance. "He was one of the first guys in there. He took the first of the injured people to Danbury Hospital and it was pretty awful. He had a break, then went back to relieve the guys standing by to take the bodies out."

Peter, a former teacher at West Harbour's Marina View School, says the massacre underscored his view gun control needs to be reviewed.

"There's only so much you can do though," says Andrea. "You can have video cameras at the school door, locks, people buzzing you in, but you can't protect yourself from 'crazy'. There's no other explanation as to why someone would go in and hurt precious children."

The flag at the US embassy in Wellington flew at half mast yesterday. US ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa David Huebner expressed his condolences.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and all affected by the shooting. I would like to thank New Zealanders for their expressions of sympathy and condolence to America on this tragic day."

Prime Minister John Key expressed his dismay and sent his heartfelt condolences to those involved.

- Herald on Sunday

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