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1993 LIRR massacre: Survivors, victims' families mark 20th anniversary

Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, center in the red coat,

Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, center in the red coat, Joyce Gorycki and family members of the victims of the Long Island Rail Road shooting 20 years ago hang wreaths in memory of their loved ones at the LIRR station at Merillon Ave. in Garden City. (Dec. 7, 2013) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, who has been on leave from Congress battling lung cancer, joined a ceremony Saturday marking the anniversary of the 1993 Long Island Rail Road massacre in which her husband and five other people were killed.

It was the first time McCarthy, 69, a Mineola Democrat, has appeared before the news media since she disclosed her illness in June.

"She just finished treatment and is recovering now," said Georgette Sierra, McCarthy's chief of staff. The congresswoman is waiting for her doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan to determine when she can return to work, Sierra added.

McCarthy used a black cane and had a sling on her right arm. She was accompanied to the annual ceremony by gun control advocate Joyce Gorycki, who also lost her husband 20 years ago in Long Island's deadliest mass shooting. They brought a holiday wreath to the eastbound platform of the Merillon Avenue train station in Garden City and hung ornaments and a bouquet of flowers on a station sign.

"We want to remind people what happened here," said McCarthy, who became a poignant voice for gun control and won a seat in Congress after her husband, Dennis McCarthy, was killed and their son Kevin McCarthy severely wounded in the shooting. "I know that people say that after 20 years people should get on with their lives. We have all gotten on with our lives, but there is never any closure."

On Dec. 7, 1993, Colin Ferguson opened fire with a 9-mm pistol in a train car on the 5:33 p.m. from Penn Station, soon after it left the New Hyde Park station heading to Merillon Avenue. Six people were killed and 19 wounded.

"It was a very sad moment," said Lenny Schultheis, who was sitting next to Dennis McCarthy on the train but escaped unhurt. "A terrible thing happened. It's amazing how quickly time goes."

Ferguson, who lived in Brooklyn, represented himself at trial and in 1995 was convicted of murder and sentenced to 315 years and 8 months to life. Now 55, he is in a prison in upstate Malone.

Gorycki, whose husband, James, was killed, and her daughter Karen, 30, expressed frustration at the failure of Congress to enact tougher gun legislation.

"I don't understand why more Americans are not saying: 'Hey, this is it. This is enough,' " said Gorycki, a Mineola resident who is also the Long Island chairwoman of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. "We have to worry about getting on a train, a movie house, our children are getting killed in school. This doesn't worry every American in this country? I can't understand it."

Surviving victims and their families attended an afternoon showing of the documentary "Long Island Railroad Massacre" at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington. Then they gathered for dinner at Elinor Rigby's in Mineola.

Featured in the film was John Forni, 55, now of Chappaqua in Westchester County, who had been sitting in front of Ferguson and was shot five times: in his finger, forearm, shoulder, chest and face. Before the documentary appeared in theaters last month, he finally told his 8-year-old and 13-year-old daughters what happened to him on that train.

"I just keep reminding myself that I am here and other people aren't," said Forni, who lived in Garden City at the time of the shooting. "I am pretty fortunate."

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