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Llodra's leadership steadfast amid horror storm

Updated 11:44 pm, Sunday, December 23, 2012

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  • Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton talk as people arrive to the funeral of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung at the Munson Lovetere funeral home in Woodbury on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. Photo: Jason Rearick / The News-Times
    Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton talk as people arrive to the funeral of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung at the Munson Lovetere funeral home in Woodbury on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. Photo: Jason Rearick

 

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NEWTOWN -- Just after 8 a.m. Friday, First Selectman Pat Llodra was at her desk with the phone ringing and people queuing up to speak with her for a minute or two.

One man wanted to erect a statue in memory of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims; a woman said she needed a private word; and a school board member was arranging transportation to funerals.

By 8:30 a.m., the 70-year-old Llodra, Newtown's second-term chief executive officer, was already behind schedule.

But from the time she first was alerted about the shooting at Sandy Hook the morning of Dec. 14, her take-charge leadership has been widely praised, even from parents of lost children. Llodra even drew a standing ovation at the interfaith vigil where she introduced President Barack Obama.

She's been a solemn, determined and ubiquitous figure.

After leaving her office Friday morning, she and other town and school leaders headed to Edmond Town Hall, where they joined Gov. Dannel Malloy on the front steps for the 9:30 a.m. moment of silence and chiming of church bells.

Then she was off to another funeral. Last week, Llodra attended funerals, memorial services or wakes for all but two victims, who were buried privately out of state.

Llodra also has assured families and survivors that Newtown stands with them not only in their grief but in their journey of healing.

"The monstrosity of this act has broken my heart,'' said Llodra, a retired career educator and high school principal who was one of the first on the scene of the massacre.

"We've suffered a great harm, but we're bent, not broken,'' Llodra said. "We need to wrap our arms around these families who have been so harmed. The unjustness of that is hard to manage, but we will manage it. And I'm still hoping some great good will come out of this horrific event.

"A lot of good comes out of tragedy. We're not yet where we can see through the fog of this horror, but I have a great belief in the power of this community.''

Since she steered the town-owned Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo into the parking lot at the Sandy Hook fire station next to the elementary school right after the shooting, Llodra said, she has refused to let the town bow to evil.

"We didn't cause this, and we didn't deserve this,'' Llodra said. "We were targeted victims, and we don't know why. And the not knowing why is difficult. But ... all of us in government, and a mass of volunteers, all have the same set of common values around rebuilding our community and being the best people we can be, and recognizing that as horrible a event as this is we will deal with it.

"It's a challenge, but we're going to tackle it.''

Legislative Council President Jeff Capeci said Llodra's compassion and commitment to her community have shined in its darkest hour. He commended her for giving comfort to every family.

"She's been rock solid. She has been able to lead, and able to comfort the people of Newtown with the words she has been able to speak to us,'' Capeci said. "She has really represented Newtown to the rest of the world."

Added LeReine Frampton, a new restaurateur and the Democratic Registrar of Voters, "I'm very sorry for Pat and the shoes she has to wear."

With the last of the funerals on Saturday, Llodra, a Republican, said she hopes the media glare dims and families are left to mourn together. She wants the community to be given time and space to heal; she wants more local stores to open for business again.

She expects the decision-making process about the Sandy Hook school's future will begin soon.

"We are working on behalf of Newtown," she said, "and we won't stop doing that ever."

nhutson@newstimes.com;860-354-2274; http://twitter.com/NTNanci