Is there a more exciting subject than trees? I submit that there is not.
Throughout Chapter 8 of “Nobody Died At Sandy Hook”, expert in absolutely nothing whatsoever Alan Powell leans heavily on the premise that the crime scene photos taken both inside and outside of Sandy Hook Elementary School were actually taken sometime in the fall; “late October or early November” is his estimate. “Dr. Eowyn” (aka Maria Hsia) also posits this asinine theory in the similarly ridiculous Chapter 2, “Six Signs Sandy Hook Elementary School Was Closed”.
The only evidence Powell presents to support this idea is the state of the trees surrounding the school, which he brings up a total of four times in eighteen pages.
“From the state of the leaves on the trees, the last oak leaves are falling so I would say late October or early November.” pg. 139
Late October or early November!
“Leaves are evident on the trees in the background. This is not December.” pg. 148
Definitely not December! Maybe September? Who knows?
“Images of the mortuary tent show an oak tree in the background, which has yet to lose all its leaves: the time of year is late October.” pg. 151
Forget November, this is most certainly late October!
“The leaves are still on trees so the likelihood that this image was taken in December is very low.” pg. 155
Okay, maybe December, but probably not!
While the window may shift ever so slightly from page to page, Powell staunchly contends that it’s next to impossible for an oak tree in Connecticut to carry leaves into the second week of December (which is still considered fall, for the record). So is it true? No, of course not; it’s totally ridiculous. And while that answer may be sufficient for most normal people, well… we’re not necessarily dealing with normal people here, are we?
So are these oaks? What exactly are we actually looking at in these photos? Let’s start with the one that acted as the source for page 151 (page 20 of “Farr – scene photos.pdf”):
Sandy Hook Elementary School was literally surrounded by trees, many of which are conifers. Conifers of course are capable of retaining their leaves throughout the cold winter months, which is why aerial views of the school from around this time aren’t completely barren. There’s one such conifer nearly dead center in the above photograph, likely an Eastern hemlock, which is the third most common native tree in Connecticut. But if you look to the left of that, you’ll see what is probably the most prominent example of the trees Powell is talking about. As I’ve previously stated, I’m not an arborist, but that appears to be a Northern red oak, which is the fifth most common native tree in Connecticut. But can such a tree stubbornly hold on to some of their leaves into the second week of December? According to the kind of people who know a whole lot about trees and also hang out on the Internet, of course they can. And the process actually has a name: Marcescence. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:
Marcescence is the retention of dead plant organs that normally are shed. It is most obvious in deciduous trees that retain leaves through the winter. Several trees normally have marcescent leaves such as oak (Quercus), beech (Fagus) and hornbeam (Carpinus), or marcescent stipules as in some but not all species of willows (Salix). Marcescent leaves of pin oak (Quercus palustris) complete development of their abscission layer in the spring. The base of the petiole remains alive over the winter. Many other trees may have marcescent leaves in seasons where an early freeze kills the leaves before the abscission layer develops or completes development. Diseases or pests can also kill leaves before they can develop an abscission layer.
Marcescent leaves may be retained indefinitely and do not break off until mechanical forces (wind for instance) cause the dry and brittle petioles to snap.
You can certainly scan through the article’s references for more information on marcescence as well, if you’re so inclined. Or you can just Google “oak tree leaves December” and scan through the images, if you’re not into the whole reading thing.
Also included in the Wikipedia entry is this picture of an oak showing orange marcescent foliage. Snow can be seen on the ground. I took a similar picture myself yesterday, February 18th. We also had some snow last week and it’s faintly visible in the lot seen in the distance (click on enlarge in a new tab):
But a denier may say that I’m an untrustworthy source and that my picture is not to be believed. Maybe the EXIF data is not to be trusted, the snow in the background is fake, and I actually took this photo sometime in early October. But would a denier trust another denier?
Here’s a still taken from a video produced by a prolific denier, documenting his weird field trip to Newtown, CT. In it, he makes a pilgrimage to the school that has made him Internet-famous. With piles of snow visible in the parking lot, leaves can be seen not only littering the ground but still clinging to trees, well into the winter*:
And this still represents just one single second in a nearly hour long video. There’s plenty evidence of marcescence in the outdoor shots. I’m not going to link you to the video, but you can easily find it on your own if you don’t believe me.
But what does Newtown, CT actually look like in late October/early November? Infinitely more colorful, for starters. Here’s what the entrance to the school at Dickinson and Riverside Roads looked like in October of 2014, according Google Street View:
Compare the fullness and colors of the trees and shrubs to this photo of the same exact area, taken on December 15th, 2012:
There’s obviously a very marked difference here.
Now compare the crime scene photo shown at the very beginning of this article to these two photos and ask yourself which one it more closely resembles:
Need more proof? Here’s what Halloween looks like on Main Street:
Here’s a high definition video flyover of Newtown that shows just how vibrant it can be that time of year:
And here’s a photo from the 2013 Newtown “Turkey Trot “, which takes place in very late November. Notice the state of the trees:
So I believe I’ve gone about as far as I need to in disproving this one. I’ve demonstrated that oak trees can and do absolutely retain their leaves well into late fall (and beyond) and that the foliage in Newtown, CT looks significantly different in late October/early November than it does in the middle of December. Plus we all probably learned a cool new word, right? Marcescence! It’s fun to say! Meanwhile, Allan Powell is left with nothing. He hung his hat on the oak trees and they wilted in front of him… just not anytime in December though. Get it?
* Thank you to Marie for pointing this one out to me. I don’t watch denier videos unless I really have to, so I don’t think I would have ever found it independently.