A memorial to the 20 first graders and six educators killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting opened to the public Sunday, Nov. 13, a month before the 10th anniversary of the massacre.
No ceremony was planned at the site, which is located a short distance from the school. It has become a custom in Newtown on anniversaries and other remembrances of the shooting to mark them with quiet reflection.
A path from the small parking lot leads down a hill to the focus of the memorial — a manmade water feature with a sycamore tree sprouting from an island in the middle. The 26 names are engraved in the top of a stone wall supporting the pool. A cobblestone walkway surrounds the feature, its outer ring lined with black-eyed Susan flowers. Other paths lead past a variety of plantings on the grounds.
With tree leaves having fallen, the new Sandy Hook School is now visible from the memorial. The new school was built on the same property, but not in the same footprint as the old one, which was torn down after the shooting on Dec. 14, 2012.
Relatives’ victims were offered a private tour on Saturday. Others, including Jennifer Hubbard, visited earlier by private appointment. Her daughter, Catherine Violet Hubbard, 6, was one of the children who died in the shooting.
“It took my breath away in the sense that to see Catherine’s name and to see what has been created in honor of those that lost ... the families, those that survived — they’ve lost their innocence,” she said. “And the community. We all suffered because of Dec. 14.
“I think that the memorial is so perfectly appointed in honoring and providing a place of contemplation and reflection for a day that really changed the country,” added Hubbard, who is now executive director of the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary in Newtown.
Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose 6-year-old daughter, Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, was killed, took to Twitter on Saturday to thank those who worked on the memorial planning for years.
“Ten years. A lifetime and a blink,” she wrote. “Ana Grace, we used to wait for you to come home. Now you wait for us. Hold on, little one. Hold on.”
Town voters approved $3.7 million for the cost of the memorial last year. Much of the cost was offset when the State Bond Commission approved giving the town $2.5 million for the project.
The project faced several challenges after the town created a special commission to oversee memorial planning in the fall of 2013. Some proposed sites were rejected, including one near a hunting club where gunshots could be heard, and officials cut the cost of the project down from $10 million because of concerns voters would not approve it.
Newtown First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, the town’s top elected official, said the memorial is both a quiet and intense tribute to those killed in the shooting.
“When you’re down in the hollow, at the water’s edge, it has a very peaceful serenity to it,” he shared. “You’re standing at this water feature and the magnitude ... There’s 26 capstones on the water’s edge, It’s pretty overwhelming.”
This story originally appeared on APNews.com