By Lindsay Emery
The gazebo in downtown Chappaqua was a sea of orange-clad residents early Friday evening who demanded change that will put an end to the scourge of gun violence across the country.
Chappaqua resident Amy Boyle said she wants a future free from gun violence for her two young children.
“He’s going into kindergarten in September and I would prefer not to have gun violence training for my children.,” Boyle said of her son. “Anything we can do to try and prevent it would be extremely helpful.”
The Wear Orange rally, which was one of thousands of gatherings and vigils across the United States starting Friday and continuing throughout the weekend to coincide with Friday’s National Gun Violence Awareness Day, was led by New Castle Town Supervisor Rob Greenstein, who introduced the speakers. Roughly 50 people attended the event.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer explained the importance of these events on a local level.
“We fight, we argue, we make the best possible case and we hope that as soon as possible that the policy will change at the national level so that these things can be controlled,” Latimer said.
Assemblyman David Buchwald highlighted the gun legislation that has been approved this year at the state level while Greenstein said activism at the grassroots level is critical.
“As elected officials, it’s our job to protect public safety,” Greenstein said. “There’s no greater job.”
Naomi Marrow, a volunteer for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, praised lawmakers for the eight pieces of gun legislation that have been passed in Albany.
“We’ve seen that gun violence is an equal opportunity scourge,” Marrow said after the event.
Twin 16-year-old siblings, Sasha Litwin and Brandon Litwin of Chappaqua lost their friend, Alex Schacter, in the February 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla. They lived in Parkland before moving to Chappaqua in 2015.
Change will happen if people continue to demand it, they said.
“Striving for gun law reform is nowhere near an easy fix,” Sasha Litwin said. “With all the contrasting opinions regarding…gun usage in America, we find our purpose – think of those whose lives were affected and amplify our voice.”
Erin Fuller Brian, a survivor of the Las Vegas shooting and a Pleasantville resident, has partnered with Kelly Marx, of White Plains and a student at George Washington University, to start a local youth group called Team ENOUGH New York.
“We truly believe that this is the generation that’s going to make a difference,” Brian said.
Marx started the March for Our Lives chapter at her college and stressed that events such as Friday’s must keep the spotlight on the issue of preventing gun violence.
Sheryl Manasse of Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester also emphasized how access to guns is too easy and that people need to think about their community when a shooting happens.
“Every time it’s somebody else’s school, it’s somebody else’s community, it’s somebody else’s town, it’s somebody else’s house of worship, until one day you wake up and it’s not,” Manasse said.
Senior Minister Rev. Dr. Martha Jacobs at the First Congregational Church of Chappaqua, who led the gathering in a rendition of “Amazing Grace,” closed the event. She spoke about how people have the obligation to stand up for what they believe is right.
“Thoughts and prayers – and you’re hearing this from a minister – are not enough,” Jacobs said.
National Gun Violence Awareness Day is the first Friday of June each year. It was launched following the death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed in 2013 in Chicago. Her friends wore orange in her honor, which has become the color of the fight against gun violence.
Correction: A previous posting of this story incorrectly stated that Sasha and and Brandon Litwin were survivors of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla. They were friends with Alex Schacter, one of the victims in the shooting. The Examiner regrets the error.