Local officials, residents respond to Florida shooting

Local officials, residents respond to Florida shooting
Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder speaks at Tuesday's vigil in Mineola for the victims of the Parkland shooting. (Photo by Luke Torrance).

During a solemn ceremony on Tuesday evening, local officials and religious leaders assembled on the steps of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola to offer their thoughts and prayers for the 17 high school students killed in a school shooting in Florida last week. But County Executive Laura Curran said politicians would have to do more than just keep the victims in their thoughts.

“Now it is indeed the time for action,” she said. “So that this school shooting won’t fade into the ethers of the past, only to be remembered when the next one happens.”

Curran called for tougher background checks and a ban on AR-15 assault rifles. She also encouraged residents to go to law enforcement if they notice suspicious or concerning behavior.

“If you see something, say something,” she said.

And some residents already had. When acting Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder stepped up to the podium, he said his department responded to several threats made on the day of the shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“Within four hours of that event, we received three threats against our schools here in Nassau County,” he said. “Thank God all three of those incidents were closed and finished that evening, but we want the people of Nassau County to know that we are out there, we are on top of it, we’ve got our finger on the pulse of these types of events.”

In addition to Legislators Ellen Birnbaum and Rose Marie Walker, religious leaders from the Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faiths all spoke and offered prayers. A group of children stood on the Legislative Building’s front steps, holding signs that called for change.

Charlotte Kerpen, a freshman at Paul D. Schreiber High School, was not at Tuesday’s event, but she had already decided to take action. The Port Washington resident said that the shooting in Parkland affected her in a way that others had not.

“I was seeing Snapchats that kids were taking [during the shooting] and then when the list of victims came out, you can find their Instagram pages,” she said. “It really hits you hard.”

Kerpen decided to organize an event at Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington to help the survivors in Florida. The show will be held on March 14 at 7 p.m. and will feature 17 performances. The show will include singing and dancing, and all the performers will be in either elementary, middle or high school.

“We wanted to keep it all kids, both performing and running the show,” Kerpen said.

Tickets are $17 and Kerpen hopes to raise $17,000 in honor of the 17 students who were killed. Half the money raised would go to the families of the shooting victims,  while the other half would go to the School Safety Foundation.

Kerpen said some of the money was being raised through donations from local businesses.

“I know the goal is a lot, but I have big dreams,” she said.

Curran said during her speech Tuesday that actions like this — teenagers stepping up to make a difference or advocate for change — were encouraging for adults.

“The thing that I find— it’s strange to say inspiring at a moment like this— what I do find so inspiring is the students’ immediate activism down in Florida,” she said.

Her sentiment was echoed by Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) in a tweet on Wednesday.

“I think we should engage the high school students of , and all of Long Island, to promote gun violence prevention legislation,” he wrote. “They could help inspire the nation. What do you think?”

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