Standing in a chilly rain on the Brentwood basketball court where another mother's son was shot and critically injured, Erica Boynton bowed her head and prayed for the violence to end.
Then she lifted her voice, and begged other parents to help.
"We're losing our little ones," said Boynton, 36, whose 15-year-old son, Christopher Hamilton, was fatally shot in November in the front yard of his best friend's Brentwood home. "Come out and support us. We need your help. End it now, before it hits home."
Local clergy, elected officials and community members joined her at a prayer service in Timberline Park shortly before noon Monday, a call for peace in response to escalating violence in Brentwood and neighboring Central Islip. The two communities have seen a terrifying succession of attacks, responsible for nine deaths last year and five since January.
Community members have rallied in response, demanding more resources from elected officials and forming civic groups to fight gang violence. Suffolk Legis. Ricardo Montano (D-Brentwood) will host a second public forum on the issue Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Central Islip High School.
Monday, about three dozen people gathered just steps from the spot where 13-year-old Wilson Batista Jr. was caught by a bullet while playing basketball in June. He survived but suffered brain damage and lost his right eye.
The short service included remarks from Montano, Legis. John Kennedy (R-Nesconset) and Islip Supervisor Phil Nolan.
The group joined hands as Roderick Pearson, pastor of St. Mark Remnant Ministries in Central Islip and president of the Islip Town NAACP, spoke: "United, we can make great difference and we can make good change."
Afterward, another grieving mother, Clara Fiallo, 40, of Brentwood, said she is still waiting for answers on the death of her son, David Sandler, 20, who was shot last month while walking to a grocery store.
"Nobody knows how hard it is to lose a child like that," she said.