East End residents huddled outside Rep. Tim Bishop's office in Southampton Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The 17 participants occasionally hoisted signs into the air for passing drivers to see that read, "We are Newtown" and "Sandy Hook, we promise not to ever forget." And they pleaded for an end to gun violence and for stricter weapons regulation, in a local tribute to a national tragedy.
"We're here today to commemorate the 20 children and six educators who died a year ago today, and we want to also commemorate all of the other hundreds and hundreds of gun victims that have happened since Sandy Hook," said Sue Hornik, executive director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence. She described the group as an umbrella organization that represents anti-gun-violence groups in 27 states, including New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
"We're not going to forget, but we're also not going to remain silent on the issue of gun safety laws," said Jackie Hilly, former executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
Bishop (D-Southampton) was not in his local office. Rally participants said he has supported gun legislation in the past. Hilly extolled Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's NY SAFE Act of 2013, passed in January in response to the Newtown shooting, as a leading piece of gun safety legislation. But she warned that stricter laws and background checks are needed nationwide to prevent another Newtown, where Adam Lanza, 20, killed more than two dozen students and educators on Dec. 14, 2012.
"It was an horrific tragedy beyond comprehension that shocked the nation," Hilly said, "yet only yesterday [Friday], there was another school shooting in Arapahoe, Colo."
Snow fell heavily on the front lawn of Bishop's office as rally participants read biographies of Newtown's 26 victims, gleaned from family statements and news reports. Voices broke as speakers described the hopes and dreams of slaughtered 6- and 7-year-olds as remembered by their parents.
They read aloud of the young victims' love of snuggling, a certain family dog, their dreams of horseback riding and growing up to become teachers or pop stars. Some readers had to choke back tears, stop reading and pass the duty off to the next person.
After each mini-biography, a bell was rung.
"Today we bow our heads in remembrance of the lost lives in Newtown on this solemn day," Hilly said. "While the sadness of this day can be unbearable, it should also embolden us to do all that we can to prevent school shootings like the one that happened last year."