We Listened to ‘The Tapes’

But here’s why we’re not publishing the 911 call recordings from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Photo Credit: Gary Jeanfaivre
Photo Credit: Gary Jeanfaivre

By Gary Jeanfaivre 

The first sound from the Newtown Dispatch 911 tapes brought me right back to that cold December morning in Sandy Hook—that day that changed everything and all of us forever.

I was immediately overcome with sadness, sitting in my car in the parking lot of Target in Bethel on Wednesday afternoon. But I listened to each audio clip. All seven of them. My editors listened to them too.

At Patch, we believe in public information and our role as journalists in disseminating it, so we had to listen to the tapes. It’s our job.

But nothing in the 911 tapes tells us anything we don’t already know.

The teachers, administrators and faculty at Sandy Hook School acted heroically in the face of terrifying evil. Our first responders got there moments after the first 911 calls were made. And, clearly, the police officers, teachers and students will be scarred for life by what they heard and saw that day.

I know there are many folks—especially in Newtown—who will never listen to the tapes. They couldn’t possibly bear to relive those few minutes before our sense of security was shattered, before 26 beautiful lives, including 20 children, were senselessly taken.

I still wonder why. And how. How could someone do this? Why would someone do this?

We will likely never fully know.

In about a week we’ll mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedy. In some ways it seems much longer. In others, it feels like yesterday.

The emotional wounds are still very real; we are fragile, a little broken, but slowly healing—individually and collectively.

And for us at Newtown Patch—as members of this community and journalists who are more dedicated than ever to serving our local audience—publishing the tapes just doesn’t feel right.

Phil Dunn December 06, 2013 at 08:37 AM
Just curious--are you saying this sort of information that might upset the victims of a crime is not news? Not subject to FOIA disclosure? When it's just one family that lost a loved one does camping out on their front lawn for a comment pass your smell test?
Gary Jeanfaivre (Editor) December 06, 2013 at 01:11 PM
Hi Phil, thanks for your thoughts. We are not saying it's now news; we are deciding to cover (or not) in a way that makes sense for our audience, taking into account our responsibility as journalists and weighing that with what has all along for us been a thoughtful and sensitive way of handling this ongoing story. As for FOIA disclosure, that is for the courts to decide — and they did. The tapes are readily available to listen to for those who want to, but you won't find them posted by Patch.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something