There’s at least one Johnson County connection to the heartbreak and heroism on display in Newtown, Conn.
Lillian Davis Bittman, a graduate of Shawnee Mission South High School, has lived in Newtown with her husband and family since 1995.
All three of their children attended Sandy Hook Elementary, where a gunman on Friday killed 26 people — including 20 schoolchildren — and himself. Since the violence, Bittman has heard from many local friends who feel compelled to respond to the tragedy.
“People have reached out to me in an amazing manner,” said Bittman.
“My heart is still in Kansas City, and those people are making my husband and I feel so incredibly loved,” she said. “I wouldn’t expect anything less, but to have it actually happen to you is amazing.”
Bittman first spoke to The Star on Saturday afternoon. At that time her children — Laura, 21; Danny, 17 and Jack, 13 — were awaiting the official release of the names of those students and staff members killed by gunman Adam Lanza.
By Monday, Bittman said, her children were doing their best to respond in their own fashion. Laura, now a college student, has been contacting other friends who had attended Sandy Hook to create artwork that will greet the students when they return to class.
“She and her friends are very sad,” Bittman said. “This is their childhood that has been destroyed.”
Public school officials in Monroe, Conn., near Newtown, have offered vacant space in one of its school facilities for use by the Sandy Hook Elementary students, said Bittman, who served for about one year as chair of the Newtown Public School District before leaving that position in 2010.
Just when the Sandy Hook students will return to class is uncertain, added Bittman.
“I’m not sure that even the school district knows that,” she said.
Many Kansas City area friends have contacted Bittman, asking her if there was any way for them to respond.
Bittman graduated from Shawnee Mission South High School in 1979 and studied journalism at the University of Kansas, where she graduated in 1983. Bittman’s husband, Tom, also attended Shawnee Mission South.
Bittman’s mother, Lillian Davis, lives in Overland Park; a sister, Maria Meyerhoff, lives in Olathe.
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