WILKES-BARRE – King's College senior Sarah Scinto doesn't know what was worse – the horror of watching reports of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre near her hometown in Connecticut, or the fear of wondering if a little boy she used to babysit was among the victims.
Scinto, 21, was working on a final around 11 a.m. Friday when she first got word of the shooting rampage that left 26 people dead at the school in Newtown, Conn. It would be six hours before she learned the boy she had cared for was safe.
I was just waiting to hear back from his mother if he was OK. It was scary and made everything even worse than it already was, she said. It was hard to watch something like this unfold from this far away.
Scinto is a native of Monroe, Conn., which is next to Newtown. She said she's still reeling from shock that such a horrific act could occur so close to home.
You hear it all the time, it sounds like such a clichĂ©, but nothing like this ever happens here, she said. To wake up every day and know the town where I spent my summers is on the national news, it's been surreal, to say the least.
Authorities are still trying to determine a motive for the murders committed by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who shot himself as police moved in. Police say Lanza killed his mother, Nancy, then drove to the school in her car and opened fire with guns he had taken from her home.
Scinto, a professional writing major at King's, worked at The Newtown Bee, the town's weekly newspaper, as an intern over the summer. There was virtually no crime to report, she said.
It's a place where families come to raise their kids and attend events like craft fairs and book sales at the library, she said. When I came home Sunday, there was an issue of The Newtown Bee dated Dec. 14. One of the headlines was about a vandal making a mess of some headstones.
She returned to Monroe on Sunday after finishing up the semester at King's. Memorials -- including 26 white balloons – were everywhere, she said. The normally quiet and peaceful town was barely recognizable as dozens of media outlets descended on the region.
I drove by the funeral home where one of the first funerals will be held. There was more traffic than I've ever seen in my life, she said.
While she understands the public's interest, the onslaught of media outlets has, in some ways, made it more difficult for residents, she said.
There's been a lot of backlash from the community. People are in shock by the intrusion of the ‘Today' show in their backyards and ‘CBS This Morning' showing up in the middle of Main Street, she said.
Those concerns are very real for Scinto, who plans to offer to help her hometown newspaper cover the story while she's home.
She knows that's not going to be easy. The key, she said, will be to ensure the reporting is done as it should be – with dignity and respect.
I'm dealing with so many ethical conflicts right now. I don't want to impose upon grief, but this is only way I know how to help is to tell the story and tell it well, she said. This is a community of people. It isn't just a place where something happened.