HARTFORD, Conn. - Some letters come from church groups, others from parents who have lost children of their own. One came from a police officer who responded to the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.
They're some of the estimated 175,000 cards and letters of support and condolences that have poured into Newtown from around the world since December's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Volunteers are working to preserve them and say thank you to as many senders as they can, one handwritten note at a time.
The archiving project is the brainchild of resident Yolie Moreno, who said she was floored to see the trays and trays of letters lining the walls of the town's municipal building after the shooting, many containing artwork or the thoughts of schoolchildren.
One that touched her was a child's watercolor painting, with "You don't know how strong you are until being STRONG is the only option you have," written over it in marker. "It's incredible, incredible stuff," Moreno said. "And I imagine everyone who sent something would like to know that it was held, read, touched, photographed and shared."
With the permission of town officials, Moreno and a handful of other volunteers have begun photographing as much of it as they can.
"Tray by tray, we'd take the letters out of the envelopes and photograph them, sometimes as a group, sometimes single letters," Moreno said. Once they are archived, the plan is to incinerate the items and use the ashes to help create concrete for whatever memorial to the shooting victims is built, she said.
Meanwhile, another group has begun answering some of that mail. They created thank-you cards that read in part, "Your voice has been heard, and your caring is deeply appreciated."
Under that printed message, a volunteer includes one or two handwritten lines to let the recipients know that their letters were read.