A Sailor in Newtown

by Christopher O'Brien

On Saturday, eight Wolcott’s police officers supported Newtown police through patrol, funeral, and memorial post assignments. The town has been inundated by visitors from all over Connecticut and the nation after the tragic deaths of 26 schoolchildren and teachers as well as two other residents. Police, firemen and charities throughout the state have descended upon the town to assist during a tumultuous week of sorroe. Officer Bryan Spiotti wrote about his experience.

By Bryan Spiotti

     Today I worked in Newtown, stationed near the Sandy Hook Elementary School and also at the Town Hall. I met many wonderful people who all shared in the mourning and grief. I met firefighters who volunteer their time and police officers who are all at a loss for words. Everyone agreed that it is a senseless tragedy. Many people walking by the droves of letters, posters, stuffed animals and other memorials with teared eyes and heavy hearts. I met a Marine / Police Chaplain who prayed with us and for us. Near the end of the day we spoke to a State Trooper who agreed that we all come together during tragedy and not that often for celebration. As we spoke I looked over at one area of the impromptu memorial and saw a sailor walking up. He wasn’t the first service man I had seen that day. I saw him kneel down and noticed that he was fighting back tears as he purposefully placed an envelope on the ground in front of him each bearing the name of one of the shooting victims, he laid them in rows, neat and almost perfect. I walked closer to see the grimace on his face, the pain in his furrowed brow, fighting back tears. I myself began to shed a tear. I watched him, sorrow on his face, placing the last envelope down he stood up, came to attention for a minute then stepped back besides the fireman who had escorted him there. They all bowed their heads, turned and walked away. It was a moment I will never in my life forget. A surreal event that only happens once in a lifetime.

But perhaps it was not the pinnacle of what this sailor would accomplish on this day. I had to shake his hand, I had to thank him for what he had just done, I had to let him know how much it affected me. I walked up to him and shook his hand then I gave him a hug. I couldn’t speak. I was too choked up. I had no voice. I whispered to him that it was an incredible thing he had just done. I thanked him and he walked away.

A few minutes later, he returned. Coming to attention, he saluted me and said something to me that I can not recall, I was caught up in the moment. I believe he consoled me for my loss and thanked me for my service. After I explained to him that I personally didn’t know anyone who had been lost but it was a loss to all of us. I asked him what connection he had to Newtown, if he had been from the town or if he had known someone who was lost. He said that he was from Texas and he was stationed at the sub base in Groton. He said that they had observed a moment of silence at the base for the victims but that was not enough for him. There were suppose to be three other sailors with him but they all backed out. He said that he had to come and then he said something so moving, I will never forget it.

“Sir, my connection is humanity”.

It was such a profound statement. As luck would have it the chaplain was walking by and I waved him over. He spoke to the sailor (who’s name was Matthew), spoke about the earlier service a bit and about why the Matthew was here. Then he said a prayer and we all parted.

I really don’t know why we make life so complicated.

We compete with each other, we fight amongst ourselves, we are unkind at times, we don’t live as the chaplain called a “loving kindness”. We ultimately are all connected, not by names or families or towns, we are all connected by our humanity. These are the times when we see it and the times when we act upon it but it should be more than just tragedy that brings it out in us. We should embrace our humanity and live in loving kindness every day of our lives.
Before I left I gave Mathew and his young family an escort to the Town Hall. I hope I see him again, he truly is a wonderful example of a sailor, an American and in his heart an example of humanity. Thank you Mathew for as long as I live I will not forget you and your act of compassion.

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