SANDPOINT — Everyone deals with tragedy in their own way.
For Sandpoint resident Randy Carne, the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy still weighs heavily on his mind as he and his loved ones as Christmas nears. However, the recent heavy snowfalls have given him a way to process those feelings. Anyone driving by a house on the corner of Oak Street and Florence Avenue can easily see the results in the form of 20 lovingly crafted snowmen — one for each child killed in the tragic shooting.
“Everyone finds their own way of coping, especially during this time of year,” he said.
The project began on Tuesday, when Carne had the idea to take advantage of the freshly-fallen snow and make some snowmen.
“The snow was just right, and it seemed like the thing to do,” he said, later adding, “You have time for this when you’re retired.”
The project quickly escalated. As more and more snowmen formed in the yard, he decided to turn the common recreational activity into a gesture of human solidarity.
On Thursday, he finalized the plan to honor last week’s young victims by crafting 20 distinct snowmen arranged throughout the yard. Each one was created with a distinct look and accessorized with different clothes and toys. Some had Radio Flyer wagons — others toted hula hoops. Carne took a trip downtown Thursday afternoon to find more supplies to complete the look.
As work progressed, the snowman project quickly became a minor neighborhood spectacle. Drivers slowed and even stopped to inquire about the work. On one occasion, a woman with a special needs child visited the home, going from snowman to snowman and describing each one. Carne imagines that people are drawn to the snowman as a pure and uncomplicated sentiment.
“It’s a simple thing,” he said. “It’s not perfect, and it doesn’t need to be. It is what it is.”
Carne’s snowmen are an elegant expression of the country’s shared sense of loss in the wake of Sandy Hook. After all, the project is in many ways a perfect symbol of mortality. The frosty figures serve as a reminder of the temporary and fragile nature of life, but they also capture the joy that so often accompanies it while it lasts.