NEWTOWN—St Rose of Lima Church hosted a film screening of Lessons from a School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane and a discussion, on October 22.
A description on the film’s website, lessonsfromaschoolshooting.com, explains, “Following the Peabody Award-winning Newtown documentary, Lessons from a School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane depicts [St Rose of Lima’s Monsignor Robert Weiss], who in the days following the Sandy Hook massacre that took the lives of 20 children and six of their educators on December 14, 2012, was tasked with the burial of eight of those children. In the throes of profound PTSD, he receives a letter from [Monsignor] Basil O’Sullivan in Dunblane, Scotland where in 1996, 16 school children were gunned down at the hands of an unhinged lone gunman.”
In the following months, the priests forged a bond through letters that culminated in a visit on the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. The film won first prize at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival and has been screened at several additional international film festivals.
Roughly 100 people ventured to the St Rose of Lima School’s Monsignor Weiss Gathering Hall on the chilly evening of October 22 to see the film. Lessons from a School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane Producer Maria Cuomo Cole and Director/Producer Kim A. Snyder attended the screening.
Speaking before the screening, Ms Cole said while she loved the footage that would become the 22-minute film, it did not fit in the Newtown documentary. Lessons from a School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane, she said, is “human” and “raw,” and it shares how episodes of violence impact communities forever.
“It is very much a story to itself,” she said.
Both Ms Cole and Ms Snyder live New York City.
“It’s a film about connection and empathy,” said Ms Snyder.
As the seats set up for the screening filled with people, Ms Snyder said, “I’m just honored to have told this story with [Monsignor Weiss] and this sister community.”
Before the film began, Monsignor Weiss led the group in a prayer and a moment of silence for the victims. Standing in front of the screen, Monsignor Weiss then welcomed everyone in attendance and shared that the film is “really the story of two priests.”
As the film played, news footage from 1996 and 2012 played on the screen. The film included interviews with both Monsignor Weiss and Monsignor O’Sullivan and footage from both churches, St Rose of Lima Church and Church of the Holy Family, Dunblane. A snow-covered Newtown was depicted between hearing Monsignor O’Sullivan read portions of the letters he sent to Monsignor Weiss. The crowd gathered for the screening remained silent as the film played.
When the screening was over, Monsignor Weiss, Ms Cole, Ms Snyder, and former First Selectman Pat Llodra spoke and answered questions. Mrs Llodra said she has seen the film many times, and it “still takes her back.” She added that she wants to cement the “precious lives lost” in her memory. While saying she was not making a political statement, Mrs Llodra said that as people who have lived through gun violence, the community needs to confront the issues around gun violence.
Monsignor Weiss spoke to the emotions shared in the film and his continuing work in the community.
“How blessed we were to have these three ladies bring this story to us,” said Monsignor Weiss of his fellow speakers.
Mrs Llodra recommended watching Lessons from a School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane multiple times to really “connect with the messages” shared through the two priests.
Lessons from a School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane is available to watch on Netflix.