A Day of Healing in Newtown

Nancy Hershatter leads a song.
Nancy Hershatter leads a song

Sue Reier participated with other CMN members in a Day of Healing through the arts on January 27 for families in Newtown, Connecticut. Here is her reflection, with a few added thoughts from Nancy Hershatter. Photos by Al deCant.

I felt honored and humbled to be part of this amazing outreach. Although I look for ways to reach out and help folks, it is imperative to be sure of my motives. Am I doing this for myself, or for true outreach?

Sign language by Newtown children adds to the impact.

I am especially grateful to know those who put together such beautiful songs, which were readily available for us to almost magically “pull up,” as we became aware of the ones that seemed most needed. This is one of the strongest aspects of CMN.

As we stood up front, reaching out for the children to join us, the connection became what it needed to be. And when the children began dancing, in beauty and exuberance in the face of their adversity, to Sally Rogers’ “In the Name of All of Our Children,” it became everything I could do to focus on my part. Their courage and resilience held me fast!

Here are some other songs we sang:

This Land is Your Land, by Woody Guthrie

Turning of the World, by Ruth Pelham, sung by Beth Bierko while Sarah Pirtle led an impromptu circle dance with the children

Building a Better World, by Peter and Ellen Allard, signed by Newtown kindergarteners

Gonna Plant Me a Garden, by Sally Rogers

May I Be An Instrument of Peace, round led by Beth Bierko

Little Bit of Light, by Carol Johnson

Grow Your Own, by Tom Chapin, performed by Frank Squillante

Hold Hands, by Sarah Pirtle, written 12/14/12

Gentle Hands, by Michael Delmain

Peace In My Fingers, by Susan Salidor

Scott Bierko and Frank Squillante “jumped in” to accompany almost everyone on guitar and keyboards. Their musicianship contributed so much to the whole – the two of them created layers of musical support behind the rest of us singers, signers and strummers.

Sally Rogers and others bring their own songs of healing.

I was able to hand out packs of 10 paper cranes each, originally made following my experience at the CMN gathering in North Carolina in 2009. I came away from there feeling as though I had been held, touched and healed by everyone I met. On the way home, I listened to Tom Pease’s CD, hearing “One Crane” by Stuart Stotts. I began folding origami cranes, hoping to create a great fundraiser for CMN. After the Newtown tragedy, I knew where the cranes were really needed. I still need to count, but I started out with 81 packs and there might be 15 left.

Beth Bierko leads a round.

While I was packing up at the end of the event, a lady named Mary came and spoke with me from the heart about how much she appreciated all we did, and spent time telling me about life in Newtown. We spent at least 15 minutes sharing.

I extend to everyone in CMN her deep appreciation.

Afterwards, some of us were able to sit down and break bread together at the Blue Colony Diner. We got to know our waitress, who wore angel earrings for her best friend’s son Jesse, killed on December 14. We sang to her a little, joked about our orders, and shared a bit of why we were there. By the end of the meal, she had given all of us her email.

CMN’s Nancy Hershatter coordinated five different dance studios, CMN participants, a place to be, ad infinitum, all in two weeks! She is amazing. Her husband Gerry worked tirelessly, running cords and mikes and on and on.

With no reference any faith background, there is a spirit abound which connects us, inspires us, and makes things happen in ways beyond our understanding. It was there as we figured the best songs to use, rehearsed a little in a cinder block stairwell, and in general “got our act together,” even though some of us were just meeting for the first time. (That in itself was a great joy for me!)

Funny, I came away feeling as though I was the one receiving the healing.


  1. Wow Sue, thanks so much for sharing your experience on that day. You all did an amazing deed……

Comments are closed.