© natalie keyssar for The Wall Street Journal 2012. Sandy Hook, CT.
A photographer who’s work I like a lot knelt down next to me to shoot the growing memorial sign post. “Such a cluttered background over there,” he said, pointing left to the road, lined with parked cars and guarded by 2 state troopers and a row of orange cones. “Over there not so bad,” he gestured right to a thicket of winter-bare trees in a ditch, separated from camera crews, photographers, reporters and police by a narrow grassy bank and stretch of police tape.
Every ten minutes or so, a person who wasnt press would crest the perfect suburban hill top, next to a pretty old cemetery. They seemed unfazed by the herd of journalists, tangled wires, and the hyper shutter clicks. They carried their offerings around the mass of us, beyond the yellow tape, to place clear plastic-wrapped bouquets, stuffed animals or balloons at the base of the sign. They would rearrange, adjust, touch a teddy bear or a rose. One woman asked the press for a light for her candle. Most made their addition, touched their companions and turned their backs, heads bowed. Some collapsed in tears, some opened their bodies, like in theater class, (never your back to the audience), to the hungry cameras, and we readily responded.
Children were clutched desperately by parents as they walked around the dazed, sunny town. Teenagers explored in small packs, tearful and curious. Christmas decorations, sale signs, school zone signs, all took on a cruel joke quality. I scanned the horizon for something to help me understand what happened there, but my eyes found camera bags, colleagues, and a traffic jam of rental cars.
A camera man accidentally kneed me in the head as I shot a picture. He told me to move out of his way. I had no sharp words. I felt, but did not execute, a shrug in my shoulders. I looked up at him silently, then returned to shooting, motionless.