Since her brother, Scott Beigel, died in the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school, Melissa Zech has made a point of traveling from her Connecticut home to take part in anti-gun violence rallies.
Sunday morning, Zech, who grew up with Beigel in Dix Hills, drove with her husband and two children to Breezy Park in Huntington Station where the family joined 600 others at a student-led rally to show solidarity and call for an end to gun violence.
Zech said her goal is to push the anti-gun violence movement forward by focusing on current and newly graduated high school students — the next generation of voters.
“Any way that we can support them is the way of the future," Zech said of the students, many of whom will soon vote for the first time.
Hundreds of those potential voters attended the rally at noon Sunday that also included Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), relatives of victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and hundreds of sign-carrying activists demanding reasonable gun laws.
The rally followed a 15-minute march along Oakwood Road in which dozens of demonstrators, many wearing orange T-shirts bearing messages in support of gun reform legislation, chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, the NRA has got to go.”
The Long Island chapter of March for Our Lives helped organize Sunday's rally. March for Our Lives, based in Washington, D.C., has held numerous rallies nationwide since Nikolas Cruz is alleged to have opened fire in Parkland, killing 17 students and faculty, including Beigel, a geography teacher.
Avalon Fenster, 16, of Huntington, and a co-founder of the Long Island chapter of March for Our Lives, was among those at Sunday's rally who had harsh words for the epidemic of gun violence in the United States.
“Gun violence in America is domestic terrorism,” Fenster, a student at The Stony Brook School, told a cheering crowd as she spoke from a portable stage set up on one of the park's athletic fields.
She said the reality of being a high school student in 2018 means learning what to do in the event of an active-shooter attack.
That is the same fear that brought Yvonne Marin, 39, of New Hyde Park out to the rally with her son Reece. Marin said Reece, a third-grader at Stewart Manor Elementary School, has been coming home since pre-K describing lockdown drills.
“We just want to have a safe, new school year,” Marin said. “We have to get out there and get a message to Congress.”
Suozzi, who helped to organize the event, touted his “F” grading from the National Rifle Association.
“We’re having a youth movement in the country and we’ve got to keep the youth movement going,” Suozzi said. “They’re organizing like never before.”