Six years after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that took the lives of 20 children and six educators, Moms Demand Action held a vigil to honor the 26 killed and all survivors of gun violence at The United Methodist Church of Port Washington on Dec. 14.
“Our organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was founded in response to the shooting in Sandy Hook,” said Moms Demand Action volunteer Laura Burns. “It spurred so many people into action around the nation for the last six years. We do a vigil every year to commemorate the mark of the Sandy Hook shooting. I’m always so grateful at these vigils every year, watching people coming together and remembering people who have been taken from us. Every year the vigils are growing bigger and bigger. It gives me hope.”
After Port Washington was the host site and sponsoring agency for March For Our Lives in Port Washington, The United Methodist Church made connections with Moms Demand Action because the two share the same passion. The Nassau County lead contacted Pastor David Collins to see if the church would host the annual vigil, which was organized by the Nassau County Chapter of Moms Demand Action.
“It’s not just important for the church, but for our society,” said Collins. “I was a freshman in high school when Columbine happened and my little girl was six-months-old when Sandy Hook happened. Prayer is powerful, but we as The United Methodist Church are ready to start being the answers to these prayers. Anytime there is an organization like Moms Demand Action, whose core values fit our social principles and the teachings of Christ, there’s no question that we will be willing to work together to bring about peace and wholeness to our community.”
During the vigil, locals heard names of the students and staff killed at Sandy Hook. Speakers included local politicians, who explained what legislation has been passed since Sandy Hook, and Rockville Centre resident Robert Gaafar, an Everytown Survivor Fellow and a survivor of the Las Vegas shooting.
“There are things from that night that are stuck with me for life and I will never forget; the eerie silence of 20,000 people during the gunfire, horrific screams of women and men, the face of fear on police officers,” Gaafar recounted to the crowd. “It’s worse than you can ever imagine. The sheer amount of firepower should only be seen in a warzone, never in an American city. Over 1,000 bullets fired, 58 killed and over 500 people wounded. That happened in 10 minutes by one individual.”
There was a musical performance by Sea Cliff fifth grader Mae Curiale and a poetry reading by Mia and Holly Raico, students from Rockville Centre’s South Side High School. On display was the Chicago Quilt from the Mother’s Dream Quilt Project, made in 2015 by families whose loved ones were killed by gun violence.
The vigil was one of about 100 across the country commemorating the six-year mark of Sandy Hook and asking lawmakers to act to prevent gun violence.
Over the last year, Port Washington has been the site of student-led walkouts, a March For Our Lives event and a Port For Parkland benefit concert.
“The student walk-out, March For Our Lives and other events that have been held in Port Washington, as a dad of two school aged-children, I’m proud to be in a community that is calling out this societal ill and not letting our passions wane after a period of time,” said Collins. “As a pastor, one of the best lines that have made the rounds through the clergy network is that, ‘Christ came to give comfort to the afflicted, but also to afflict those who are comfortable.’ I believe Port Washington is living into this statement, especially as we have gathered with synagogues after the Tree of Life shooting to stand as one, and as our community leaders and elected officials share the same sentiment when it comes to gun violence. Someone has to lead the way, and if we can help do it as the church, I’d be one proud pastor, dad and member of the community.”
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