HARTFORD, Conn. — Hundreds of thousands of cards, letters, stuffed animals and children’s artwork from around the world flooded into Newtown in the days and weeks after the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The town kept everything. Some of it was preserved in its original form. Other items were documented in photos or turned into recycled material called “sacred soil,” which officials hope can be used in the foundation of a new school or to construct a permanent memorial for the 26 victims of the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting.
“Nothing was thrown into a landfill,” said Yolie Moreno, a resident who headed the archiving effort. “Every single thing was saved: tags from teddy bears, paper snowflakes, everything.”
Moreno took charge of the letters, cards and artwork. Tens of thousands were sorted by state and country of origin. A group of volunteers, many of them professional photojournalists, then photographed them to create a digital record. Norwalk-based Xerox Corp. is helping create a website where people will be able to view much of it.
The town’s library requested some of it for another website. About 5,000 pieces of correspondence will be stored there in a searchable form, Moreno said.
“We read through them and picked out a sampling of the most poignant,” she said “It was important to us that people know that what they sent in was read, was appreciated.”
About 30 boxes filled with handmade items also were kept and are in storage at the town municipal center. Officials hope it can be used in a future art installation in town, Moreno said.