Hudson -- A recent Hudson High School graduate hopes her bigger than life-sized snow angel inspires a blizzard of homemade snowflakes to help welcome Sandy Hook Elementary students back to school.
The national Parent Teacher Association is encouraging people to make snowflakes to decorate the rooms and halls of Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn., where 20 students and six adults were killed by a gunman Dec. 14. Students there go back to school Jan. 14. However, students will attend classes in another building.
Katie Wiley, a 2012 HHS grad and pre-med student at the University of North Carolina, encouraged people to participate with her own special message and tribute to the children who lost their lives.
Katie, 18, spent the first 11 years of her childhood a few miles away from Newtown, Conn. She heard the news of the shooting when she arrived home in Hudson on winter break.
During the first snow of the year Dec. 22, Katie drew her message in the snow at Lavelli Field -- a large angel with a halo and the words "Sandy Hook Angels."
"I did this because I was thinking of the snowflake project," she said. "I thought that maybe if the 26 Sandy Hook angels were looking down on us, and were able to see the angel in the snow, they would be reminded that we remember and honor them."
"I hope that, wherever they are and whatever they're doing, they know that they are in our hearts, and I hope that other people who may have walked by the angel in the snow would also be reminded of them.
"I am so sorry for the families left behind, and I hope they know that they too are not alone."
The local snowflake-making effort is being led by the Hudson PTA with help from the school district.
"With 4,000-plus students in our district, it is hopeful that we send enough snowflakes to warrant a 'snow day' in all of Connecticut," said Hudson PTA President Darlene Szilagy.
Snowflakes can be mailed to: Connecticut PTSA, 60 Connolly Parkway, Building 12, Suite 103, Hamden, CT 06514. They must arrive by Jan. 12.
Those participating can write the school district's name, city and state on the envelope.
The national PTA is also accepting cash donations to help Sandy Hook.
For cash donations contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Donations can also be mailed to: Connecticut PTSA, 60 Connolly Parkway, Building 12, Suite 103, Hamden, CT 06514.
Szilagy compared the Sandy Hook shooting to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Both tragedies made Szilagy cry "for people I did not know, and unfortunately would now never know."
"We have had several school shootings over the years, but Sandy Hook's shooting seem to hit me harder than most," Szilagy said. "[It was] thoughts of small little girls and boys, some of which participating in formal education for the first time in their young life and anxious to be included in something that they may have seen their older siblings partaking in for several years, happily going to school that day, never to go home."
The Hudson PTA will also participate in a future project to help honor the teachers and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School, Szilagy said, calling their actions "heroic" for helping to prevent more deaths during the shooting.
"We have heard many positive remarks from families in our community and from the principals of the elementary schools," said Sarah Adams, vice president of communications with the Hudson PTA.
Adams is hoping most families send in at least one or two snowflakes, she said.
"The tragedy in Sandy Hook is devastating," Adams said. "As a pediatrician, mother and PTA member I feel a connection to Newtown, Conn., because it sounds like a small community much like our own."
Adams "can't even begin to imagine what their community is going through," she said.
"But I feel a snowflake or two from our community will let them know we are praying for them and to let the children see school with 'wonder' as they should," she added.
Angela Rosenberg, the PTA's vice president of advocacy, is the parent of a kindergartner.
"It breaks my heart to know that there are 20 more moms heartbroken over the loss of a child," she said. "It is a pain I never want to experience and all my love and prayers go to these women in hopes that this will ease some of their pain -- although, I am not sure anything could ease it at this time."
Rosenberg also called the staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School "heroes."
"I am so proud of the teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook," she said. "They protected those kids to the best of their ability, even sacrificing their own lives."
The tragedy has given Rosenberg the opportunity to "reflect on the staff my children are in contact with everyday."
"My one daughter's teacher explained to the class that the tragedy needed to be discussed with their parents but reassured them that he will do everything to keep them safe from harm," Rosenberg added. "Another [teacher] asked parents, on the day of the tragedy, after we give our kids our hugs to give them a hug from her, as well."
Rosenberg said the administrators and staff of Hudson Schools deserved credit for working hard to make sure the buildings remain safe and secure.
"I am honored to have these men and women in my children's lives," she said. "In the wake of another tragedy, they continued to educate, all the while making sure these kids are even safer than the day before."
For more information visit the PTA's Facebook page or www.hudsonpta.org.