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In Newtown, ‘there’s nothing that hasn’t changed’ a year after Sandy Hook

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At Newtown’s Reed Intermediate School, "there was a backpack left in the lobby the other day," she said. "You know, it’s fifth- and sixth-graders — everybody has a backback. … But the response is very, very serious.

"Anything about the school building or security … I think everybody has a shorter fuse," Fitzgerald said.

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But despite all that, "It’s still a great town to live in here," she said. "We still have great things that are happening here all the time.

"We can’t forget and we don’t forget. But people have turned from doing regular volunteer work to doing serious things … like founders of funds," she said. "I think everybody stepped it up a little."

For many of the people touched most closely by the tragedy, including the family members of those who died, everything about their town and their lives is profoundly different.

"People tell me it’s supposed to get easier over time," said Leonard Pozner, father of Noah Pozner, the youngest of the 20 children taken that day. "We’re waiting for that to happen.

"I mean, the initial shock has worn off," but the pain and the void remain, he said.

"I was living a different life when this happened and now this is a new life; a life without Noah and just adjusting to it," Pozner said.

Not long after the shootings, "we left Newtown," Pozner said. Now, he, his wife, Veronique, and the younger two of Noah’s four siblings "live out of state." He did not want to publicly discuss where they moved.

"For us, it definitely is" a good change, he said.

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"Noah was my only son and that’s a very special thing," he said. Prior to his death, "He had started to become his own person and he really wanted to know who his dad was."

‘More aware of who we are as a community’ » For the town’s leadership, what happened at Sandy Hook School created a torrent of new challenges that no one in Newtown ever thought they’d face.

"Certainly, on December 13 of 2012, I think we were generally unaware that the world can be a dangerous or unpredictable place," said Llodra. "We knew that there were horrible mass shooting events, but they were always in far-off places."

Now, "we are different in that we are more aware that we are NOT any different," she said. "We are more aware of our vulnerabilities. We are more cautious, more aware, less blase. We’re a little more suspicious. … We’re aware that some people may be out to hurt us."

Even a year after what happened, Llodra still spends "at least 40 percent" of her time doing tasks related to what virtually everyone in town simply calls "the tragedy."

"Some days it’s 100 percent," she said a few days ago. "Today was 100 percent."

Beyond that, in dealing with one another, "there is less pretense about who we are and we are more aware of who we are as a community," Llodra said.

When someone says they’re from Newtown now, "that tells me that we have common ground because we’ve been through a common experience."

Llodra said she believes that this positive change will be sustainable once all the dust settles.

What hasn’t changed about Newtown is that "it’s still very family-centric," as it was before the tragedy, she said. The community "is built around kids and schools and parks and recreation."

Overall, "I think our core values haven’t changed," Llodra said. "They’ve been enhanced."

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