‘FELT THEIR PAIN’
The process to arrange the trip was slow to begin with, Parker said.
“They wanted to make sure that we were indeed a legitimate organization and that we didn’t have any hidden agenda,” he said. “They had some problems with people who were not truly authentic.”
Parker and his team, also including Sue LaMoy, knew this would perhaps be one of their most difficult assignments.
“(But) the exposure we had and the anticipation did not prepare us,” Candyce said. “I don’t think any of us will be the same.”
“None of us had experience with this type of tragedy — the size of it, the scope of it,” Parker said.
“It changed me completely,” Douglass said. “You felt their pain.”
LaMoy said she could sympathize in some respects with the loss the families of Newtown endured.
“Going on, in June, seven years ago, I lost my husband,” she said.
The donkeys’ visit, Sims said, lasted twice as long as it was supposed to.
“The children didn’t want them to leave,” she said.
“It was definitely new and exciting for the kids,” SaeJin said.
The trip was strictly for healing, not to hear the Newtown residents’ memories of the horror of that day in December, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“We didn’t ask for their stories,” said Douglass.
But Parker did learn that the tragedy had very closely touched some of those who visited the donkeys.
Eight of the children who died had been part of the congregation at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, where Thera-Pets spent some time.
Others had once attended the Children’s Adventure Center. The preschool is located only a few hundred feet from the Elementary School.