On vacation during MLS’s offseason, Marcus Tracy was cooking himself breakfast last Friday when his mother saw troubling news scroll across the bottom of the TV. Three miles from their home — at the elementary school where his mom once taught, where many of his boyhood friends grew up together, where Tracy played rec league soccer on occasion — there had been a shooting.
“I thought she got it wrong. I didn’t believe it,” Tracy, a 26-year-old forward for the San Jose Earthquakes, said in an interview with the Insider today. “I walked over to the TV. It was shock, disbelief. I was thinking, hoping — because this town means so much to me — that it was minor.”
As he and the world quickly learned, it was not. Among the 26 innocents killed at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., were the principal and school psychologist with whom Tracy’s mother knew well from her time in the school system.
Tracy said he watched CNN all day, heartbroken by the tragedy that had struck a New England town where he lived almost his entire childhood with two older siblings (brother Ryan played for Penn), his mother, Marguerite, and father, Donald, a retired IBM executive.
The next day, he ventured into the town center, which was overwhelmed by traffic, police and TV trucks.
“People always say it could never happen where they live, but it happened to us,” he said. “It’s shocking. It hurts. This is what the town is going to be known for now. I lived it here, grew up here. I will know it for everything else.”
Tracy and his siblings did not attend Sandy Hook; they went to Hawley School and later graduated from Newtown High School. Tracy played for Beachside Soccer Club in nearby Norwalk, Conn., and spent four years at Wake Forest University. As a junior, he helped the Demon Deacons win their first NCAA title. The following year, he won the 2008 Hermann Trophy as the nation’s best player.
He turned down MLS overtures after his junior year to try his luck in Europe, signing with Danish club Aalborg. After a promising start — an UEFA Cup appearance against Manchester City and a goal in his first league match — injuries bedeviled his career. This fall, he signed with MLS and was allocated to San Jose through a weighted lottery. With the Earthquakes rolling to the Supporters’ Shield, Tracy didn’t make any late-season appearances.
He is scheduled to report to training camp next month, but until then, his thoughts — and actions — are with his shattered hometown.
Wanting to help the healing process and put Newtown in a positive light, Tracy and a handful of old friends gathered last Sunday to produce a video. The music and lyrics are original. One friend played guitar. Another had rapping experience. Someone offered vocals. Tracy did some writing. Another friend had studio equipment at his home.
They mixed and mastered the material Tuesday and Wednesday and posted it on YouTube on Thursday evening. A Hartford radio station, WZMX-FM, played the song on the air, he said. (The video is embedded at the bottom of this blog entry.)
“What could we do to give the town a voice and help the people heal?” Tracy said. “There’s a lot of negativity in the media about Newtown and we want to show the other side. It was therapeutic for us too. We are grieving. Everyone has been grieving.”
Tracy and his family haven’t attended the memorial services or other public gatherings. “It’s too emotional,” he said.
Newtown’s healing process has begun. But the pain endured by those who lost loved ones — and the violent impact on an otherwise quiet town — will not soon fade.
“There’s still a sense of gloom,” Tracy said. “Everyone has come together, but it’s going to take a while.”
“We Are Newtown” t-shirts and the “We’ll Be Alright” tribute song are available for purchase on this Web site, with all proceeds going to the “We Are Newtown” Memorial Scholarship.