This story was originally published in Newsday on Feb. 18, 2995.
As the longest day of the Colin Ferguson trial ended in shouts of victory and tears of relief, one after another of the survivors and the relatives of the dead stepped to the microphone and delivered impassioned appeals for gun control.
"We don't need another picture like this in the paper," said Robert Giugliano, his voice trembling as he held up a newspaper clipping showing the photo of Marita Magtoto, one of the six who died. ". . . It could be my wife or my daughter next time. It could be me. Enough. Let's put an end to it." Giugliano, a 39-year-old electrician who was wounded in the arm and chest, joined in a hastily organized news conference outside the courtroom after the verdict.
Now matter how "schizophrenic or paranoid" Ferguson appears, said shooting victim Thomas McDermott, "he still would have been eligible until 10 minutes ago to purchase a gun . . . without any restrictions whatsoever." Of Congress' possible repeal of the recently enacted assault weapons ban, he said, "They have disgraced, dishonored the lives of those six human beings who never got off that car."
Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband Dennis died on the train, appeared with her son Kevin, who was wounded. "We have worked hard to bring some sense into our lives. Yet the gun manufacturers continue to make bullets that tear away flesh, guns that kill human beings. I don't know what we can say of our society," she said. "We are going to take it upon ourselves to do everying possible to make sure other people in this country don't lose a Dennis McCarthy, a James Gorycki. You haven't heard the last of us."
The emotional gathering was the climax of a day that, for most of the victims and relatives, began with confidence a verdict would come quickly, then slowly took on the grim qualities of another ordeal as the hours slipped by and the jury continued deliberations.
"It's very difficult. This is not what I expected," said Nora Allen, mother of Elizabeth Aviles, who was wounded in the shooting. "I really thought that this would be over quickly."
In the courthouse lobby, smoking, talking, sharing sodas and sandwiches, they had been an impromptu support group while they waited for a verdict. "It's a strange fraternity," said Carl Petersen, a Garden City banker who was on the train but wasn't wounded. He talked with the others about the ordeal that brought them together and about what he'd like to see befall Ferguson.
"I have no desire for vengeance. I hope he finds peace," Petersen told Giugliano.
"I think he needs to suffer a little, too," Giugliano responded. "I sure wouldn't want to be in their shoes," he said of the jurors, but after a pause, added, "Then again, maybe."
Giugliano had earlier joked that the courthouse would need a revolving door because the verdict would come so fast that everyone would be in and out. But by midafternoon, after testimony had been read back at the jury's request, he groaned, "Don't do this! Let's get this over with."
If the wait was arduous, he, like many other passengers on the fateful train, believed the verdict was sure to be guilty. "This case is cut and dry, but you've still got to go through the motions," he said.
"We're anxious of course," said Carolyn McCarthy. "But they're doing their job," she said of the jurors, "Ninety-three counts is a lot."
McDermott, an attorney and former assistant district attorney, said he wished the jury would reach a verdict but appreciated the seriousness of its task. "This jury should be accorded whatever amount of time it takes to do its job responsibly," he said.
"I'm looking for justice, that's all," said Frank Barker, a father of seven who was injured in the shooting. "I think every life has value. I feel bad that not only has he [Ferguson] destroyed other people's lives, but he has also destroyed his own life."
Barker said he wasn't at court to celebrate, but to comfort and be comforted. "This is more to console each other," he said, "the other survivors as well as the family members" related to slain victims.
Majella Uzan, sister of slain passenger Magtoto, flew in for the trial from Sausalito, Calif., and walked up and down a courthouse hallway with Carrie Locicero, sister of slain passenger Amy Federici. "My stomach is very upset" from the waiting, said Uzan, who like many survivors and relatives smoked nervously. "But it's just a matter of time."
For Locicero, it was also a matter of faith. She said that, like her sister, she is a born-again Christian and that the shooting "didn't test my faith."
"It's draining, but it's teaching us patience," she said of yesterday's wait. Of her sister and their faith, she said, "It helped me to know where she is . . . She didn't normally take that train, so there was a reason why she took it."
Jacob Locicero, Federici's father, was also philosophical and said he bore Ferguson no hatred. "Hatred only kills the hater," he said. "Ferguson was only the instrument of God that caused my daughter's death."
Less restrained toward Ferguson was John Apsel, who suffered a collapsed lung, three broken ribs and a damaged spleen from his shooting wounds. Still in daily pain from his injuries, he said, he had "a lot of anger sitting in that court room with Ferguson."
Maryanne Phillips compared the wait to that of an expectant parent, rough but bearable. "It's almost like waiting for the birth of a baby," she said. "You don't know if it's going to be a boy or a girl. But being with the other passengers helps us all draw strength."
With Letta Tayler, Joe Haberatroh and Yolanda Rodriguez