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Former Longtime Resident Recalls Idyllic Town

Rose Sethi now of Thetford raised her children in Sandy Hook, Conn. where they attended school at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 children were killed by a gunman yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Rose Sethi now of Thetford raised her children in Sandy Hook, Conn. where they attended school at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 children were killed by a gunman yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

Thetford — Rose Sethi lived in Newtown,. Conn., for 40 years, and as she watched the events unfold at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the place where both her sons started their education, she forced herself to turn off the television.

“Both my sons say they got the best start ever by going there,” said Sethi, who is 74 years old and moved to Thetford four years ago.

When Sethi moved to Newtown more than 40 years ago, she said it was all rural, but as years passed, it became a bedroom community for New York City and New Haven and many people commute to work.

But what draws them to the town is the schools, much like people are drawn to the Upper Valley, she said.

“It’s a wonderful school,” Sethi said. “It’s a great, great school. I’m sure it’ll continue to be, but it’ll be known for something else.”

While watching the news yesterday, Sethi saw the school’s playground, which reminded her of a vivid memory she has of a teacher. When one of her son’s teachers retired, parents and community members chipped in to update the playground and they named it after the teacher, calling it “Charlotte’s web.” She was a teacher that her son credits for “giving him a great interest in everything.”

Sethi said she has received calls from people she hasn’t heard from in 30 or 40 years, parents of students who went to school with her sons.

The school is about 65 miles northeast of New York City and only about 15 miles from the New York state border. Newtown is about 10 miles east of Danbury, Conn., and only a 30 minute commute from New Haven.

It’s a very desirable, expensive community, Sethi said, but at the same time, it’s quiet. Newtown doesn’t have a downtown, just a few stores and little congestion.

Both her sons are in their 40s, and one is a doctor, and when he heard about the shooting he told his mom that it, “just broke me up.”

“My boys are shocked and they don’t know what to tell their kids,” Sethi said.

Both her sons have two daughters, but Sethi said she doesn’t plan to talk to her grandchildren about the shooting. Instead, she’ll leave that conversation up to her sons.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.