8 Years After Sandy Hook Shooting, State Set to Approve Funds For Victim Memorial

The State Bond Commission is expected to approve $2.5 million on Friday for the construction of a memorial for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting eight years ago, which will be used to defray much of the $3.7 million funding approved by local voters in April.

A groundbreaking ceremony is planned next month to begin construction on the memorial, down the street from where the shooting took place in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. The site is planned to be a place for peaceful reflection.

Carol Bobel, a retired teacher who worked at Sandy Hook before the shooting and a Newtown resident, said the memorial is important to serve as a reminder of the shooting that killed 20 first-graders and six educators.

"It would be nice to have a place where everyone can go and just reflect," she said. "We can't forget it. We look at the world now. We thought that it (the shooting) would change things, and it didn't."

Officials expect construction to be finished before the 10th anniversary next year.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Sandy Hook memorial
Eight years after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the state is expected to approve funding for the construction of a memorial for the victims. Candles are lit among mementos at a memorial for victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, on December 17, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. Mario Tama/Getty Images

"As a parent of a child murdered, I am deeply grateful first to the parents who have dedicated an extraordinary amount of time seeing this come to fruition and secondly to everyone else involved," said Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose six-year-old daughter, Ana, died in the shooting.

"I am also thankful to give the public a place to be and reflect -- and hope it means our family can have privacy at the grave site," she said.

The key area of the memorial will be a water feature with a sycamore tree in the middle and the victims' names engraved on the top of the surrounding supporting wall. The water flow has been designed so floatable candles, flowers and other objects will move toward the tree and circle around it. Pathways will take visitors through a variety of plantings, including flower gardens.

"We wanted to create sort of a place that was quiet, a place of reflection, a place where people can come to connect to nature," said Daniel Affleck, an associate principal of San Francisco-based SWA Group who designed the memorial. "A place where people can come and they can see the seasonality, the changes, a kind of peacefulness and the way that the plantings are going to change as a reflection of the passage of time."

The project faced several challenges after the town created a special commission to oversee the 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.

At a town referendum in April, residents approved spending $3.7 million on the memorial by a vote of 963 to 748.

First Selectman Daniel Rosenthal, the town's top administrator, said he believes a strong majority of local residents support the concept of the memorial, but some were concerned about the cost and paying higher taxes.

"It's important that what happened be memorialized in a solemn way," Rosenthal said. "It's appropriate to have a place where people can go and reflect and remember what was lost that day."

Around Newtown on Wednesday, some people expressed mixed feelings about the memorial and how it is being funded.

"It shouldn't come out of taxpayer dollars because we got millions and millions of dollars from all over the world," said a resident who would only identify herself by her first name, Ann. Several other people who expressed concerns about the memorial also declined to give their names. One man said, "The whole school ought to be the memorial."

After the shooting, about $12.5 million in donations poured into Newtown. After public disagreements about where the money should go, eventually $7.7 million went to 40 families directly impacted by the shooting, with the bulk going to the 26 families. The remainder was set aside for mental health services to victims' families, first responders and teachers and students from the school.

Sandy Hook memorial illustration
The state is expected to give final approval to $2.5 million for the project Friday, July 23, 2021. This illustration provided by Daniel Affleck, depicts his design for the proposed Sandy Hook victims memorial in Newton, Conn. SWA Group/Daniel Affleck via AP