Stricken with grief over the recent shooting at Marjory Stone Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, East Hampton activists gathered together in front of Hook Mill on Saturday.
The mourning crowd held a vigil in honor of the 17 people who were killed, just like activists gathered after the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, erecting and decorating Christmas trees on the triangle to honor the 26 murdered in Newtown, Connecticut. Roughly 50 people, including East Hampton Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach and East Hampton Town Councilman Jeff Bragman attended the vigil.
The huddled masses braved the frigid evening for two purposes: to honor the fallen victims and their families and to organize petitions designed to put pressure on government officials to prevent these crimes from reoccurring. Mayor Paul Rickenbach addressed the issue by saying, “Without question, the time has arrived to have a renewed debate at the national level to address meaningful gun legislation reform.”
Gerry Mooney, one of several organizers of the event, read the names of the victims and held up one of the newspapers that had reported the event saying, “We need to join together to get [Congressman Lee Zeldin] to listen. We need to fight. We don’t need prayers or sympathy, we need action.” The crowd responded in a chant, “Not in my backyard!”
Another organizer of the event, Anna Skrenta, also spoke. “Every time things like this happen, it’s heartbreaking and scary,” she said. “You never had to worry about it in East Hampton, you never had to worry about it happening anywhere. But now it does. This can’t become the norm—something that we expect to happen.”
Diana Rivera, who also assisted in organizing the event, said, “I wanted to do this because I was very moved by the events and felt I had to do something. We are parents and have children.”
Her daughter, Genesis Carino, a college student, stood before the crowd and read the poem she had composed after learning of the tragic events at the Parkland, Florida High School: “…Copper bullets cascade down hallways, their wounds become formal dress. Their hearts do triple dips of faith; as we pray, they stand the test of time and make it home tonight, so as we can give them love … small bodies gone. But I know the love we feel is very much alive, because a bond can never die …”
The informal vigil was hastily organized, but, its prominent location at Hook Mill grabbed the attention of passersby like veteran Terry Conaty. “I was passing by and didn’t know what was going on so I asked someone, and when they told me I had to park, and came to join to honor those who died,” Conaty said. “It’s such a tragedy. I guess it’s part of life but it shouldn’t be. I think about the environment the kids are growing up in. The violence they see on TV. Most are unaffected by it, but others it seems to affect, and they can become mentally ill. We know what the problems are, it’s the solution that’s hard to find.”
As the sun began to set, Mooney concluded the vigil with the singing of John Lennon’s song, “Imagine,” with Michael Guglielmo’s accompaniment on a hand drum. All in attendance signed a heart-shaped mural, the names of the fallen written within. “Never again,” and “Imagine” were among the messages, as was, “Let us keep our hearts open and our fists held high” and what’s become a national rallying cry, “#nomore.”