Connecticut Tragedy Hits Close to Home for Smithville Man

December 19, 2012
Dwayne Page
Hugh Kennen

The massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in New Town, Connecticut last Friday hit close to home for a Smithville man, whose mother serves as a kindergarten teacher's aide there and was on her way to work when the shooting occurred.

"She's tough but it hurts," said Hugh Kennen, an employee of Smithport Cabinetry, formerly Kitchencraft." That's something that even sitting here I'll never forget so I can only imagine how hard it is for her to deal with," he said.

Kennen, who is originally from Connecticut but has lived here since 1993, told WJLE Tuesday that he became worried about his mother, Jean Passero and other members of his family after hearing news of the shooting from a co-worker last Friday. "The first thing that happened was I got word from a co-worker who has alerts sent to his phone about major news events and he asked me if I had family in Connecticut. I said yeah. He showed me on his phone the first broadcasts that were coming out about it. I saw New Town Connecticut. That's where most of my family lives now. I came in and checked my computer and saw that the school was on lock down. They didn't know much at that point but they knew there had been a shooter. I picked up the phone and called my mother but her line was busy so I called my sister who also lives in New Town and got through to her so luckily there wasn't a long period of time where there was a lot of doubt that at least my close family was safe," he said.

"My mother was leaving the grocery store to go into school and got the call that the school was locked down so she turned around and went home to turn on the news like most people were," said Kennen. " I got word from my sister that her kids, although they were in school at another elementary school in town, were safe. So my immediate fears were quelled," he said.

Kennen said his mother knew many of the children and staff at the school who were killed and their loss has not been easy for her to accept. "She is a teacher's aide at that school for the kindergarten kids so a good portion of the kids that were in those first grade classrooms were her students from the previous year. New Town, even though it's not a tiny town is very close and she is good friends with a lot of the families. A lot of the staff are close friends of hers so it wasn't easy for her to get the phone calls from the other parents." he said.

The tragedy has also left an impression on Kennen, who knows that area of Connecticut so well. "From where I'm sitting, to see the places that I've been to and people that I know in just complete panic and turmoil and tragedy, it hits home and I haven't lived there in a long time so I can imagine it's just devastating for people that are actually involved. It was crazy. I'm not sure what breaks inside somebody's head that can make them walk into an elementary school and do this. I don't understand it," said Kennen.

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