Life for a Newtown Parent, One Year After the Massacre
The father of the youngest victim talks about life without his son.
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Among the things hindering their grief and taking an emotional toll are various forms of “victimizing the victims” that seem to be part of tragedies of thismagnitude. Members of Veronique’s own family, for instance, almost immediately “acted to take ownership of our child’s death.” According to Pozner, his wife’s brother, among other things, quickly registered several domain names containing Noah’s name and appeared on TV and in other media “as a self-appointed spokesperson” for the family when, in fact, “he was not part of our lives and we were not part of his. He met our children only a handful of times.” The stress of all of this “has added another layer of pain to the loss of our child,” Pozner says. “Part of healing is having family to lean on, and we don’t have that from Veronique’s family.”
Within hours of the shooting, there were people setting up fraudulent websites “on behalf” of the victims. One, Nouel Alba, a 37-year-old Bronx mother of two, posed as Noah’s aunt and set up a page soliciting donations to help with Noah’s funeral expenses. She was arrested, indicted, and pleaded guilty to wire fraud and lying to federal agents. In October, she was sentenced to eight months in prison.
Alba is just one of scores of people who have tried to make money and/or gain notoriety from the Newtown shootings. But it’s not just fame or money they seek. “It’s almost like this sick celebrity thing,” says Pozner. There are people who want a “piece” of the event, a macabre memento or souvenir. Soon after Noah’s death, his dad says, someone “took his yellow metal pedal car” from the family’s yard. “We had a nice mezuzah on the door that said ‘Noah’s Ark,’ and it was taken right off the door.”
There are also Newtown “deniers,” almost cult-like groups of people who propagate the notion that the massacre was a hoax, that the victims aren’t really dead, that the parents are “actors,” and they post “evidence” all over the Internet. “We’ve had people drive by to take pictures of our house,” Pozner says. “We didn’t feel safe.”
Because of incidents like these, their complete lack of privacy, the relentless media spotlight, and the constant everyday reminders of the tragedy, the family has moved out of Connecticut to an undisclosed location.
Pozner’s children are in a new school, with new teachers and new friends. Their classmates, so far, are unaware that their brother was one of the Newtown victims. “The teachers, the principal, and the school psychologist know” who they are, says Pozner, “and they have been great in welcoming us.” They’ve also been extremely astute and sensitive to his daughters’ needs. For instance, “There was a ‘code red’ drill, a lockdown drill, recently, and they called us beforehand.” Pozner took his children to school after the drill.
Their relocation has given them a little relief, but they still have a long way to go before they can begin the reality of life without their son. “We’re still in survival mode.” And, as any parent would be, Pozner is occasionally plagued by “What if’s,” though he knows they are not really logical. “I think that if I had kept them home, or if they had been sick that day, my life would be completely different.”
The Pozners also deal with a particular type of aloneness that most people will never have to face. And then there’s the terrible uniqueness of their loss. “Who are my peers?” Noah’s father asks rhetorically.
Since Noah was a twin, the family will now celebrate his sister’s November birthday—without him. And as the one-year anniversary looms, “We’re dreading December,” says Pozner. “The anniversary, the holidays.”
As for Noah’s sisters, “they have a lot of challenges,” Pozner says. “For most small kids, the little challenges are always there about wanting to keep the light on at night, not wanting to be in a room by themselves. But now, the idea of monsters is real to them. They’ve lived through it. It’s not something we can brush off.”
Despite his family’s suffering, Pozner is still able to see the goodness in most human beings. “There are definitely more good people than bad people,” he says. “We’ve received thousands and thousands of letters. People have told us that they have a picture of Noah. We get mail from grandmothers, retired schoolteachers, crayon drawings from small children, condolence letters from prisoners, religious leaders, students, law enforcement, various organizations. Most of them are handwritten.” Though he and Veronique “can only read a few a day, because it is so emotionally draining,” Pozner says, “that love from all over the world is very comforting to us.”