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Nephew of Bishop Brady principal among Sandy Hook victims

As educators across the state and country tried to grasp the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, Bishop Brady High School Principal Trevor Bonat was on his way to Newtown, Conn. His nephew, James Mattioli, was one of the first-graders killed in the shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six teachers.

“I’ve been kind of at Ground Zero,” Bonat said. “It’s been a very surreal and very challenging time for us.”

Mattioli was the son of Bonat’s wife’s sister. He also has a fourth-grade niece who was at the school and unharmed. Bonat stayed in Newtown for six days following the shooting, and he and his wife went back for Christmas. The media attention in the town was overwhelming at first, he said, and many houses of the victims’ families had police officers out front for several days.

But while in Newtown, Bonat said he saw incredible strength from the teachers and the community members.

“That community is a strong community and shaken to its very core,” he said. “Those teachers did a fantastic job, and I can’t say enough about the dedication that those teachers had in doing what they could to help their students.”

Back at Bishop Brady the following Monday, the students held a memorial service to honor the victims, and they wanted to do something to help the Sandy Hook community, Bonat said. The students participated in a drive to make snowflakes to decorate the new school. When Bonat went back to Newtown for Christmas, he took the snowflakes with him and was amazed to see how many other people had made snowflakes.

As a principal, Bonat said, he is staying away from controversial discussions on topics like guns in schools. Instead, he’s focusing on making Bishop Brady a place that molds students who want to make the world a better place.

“I’m still in the process of grieving and dealing with the human side of all this. My focus right now is really, fundamentally, what can we do to make our society” better, he said.

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