On October 19, 2011 Molly and Gregory Friedlander were shot and killed by their father, Sam Friedlander.
Cleaved by shotgun blasts while they slept, the 10-year-old Molly and 8-year-old Gregory died unaware that they were not their father’s only victim that night.
That Wednesday night while his children slept, Sam Friedlander beat his soon-to-be ex-wife Amy to death, using the leg of a table he had ripped from its socket specifically for this purpose.
With his family dead, Sam made his way to the basement of the family’s home at 2 Lambert Ridge in Cross River, New York. In his final act of hatred, using the same gun he had just used to kill Molly and Gregory, Sam took his own life.
The news of Sam’s rage took less-than two-hours to reach me after the bodies were discovered by police the next day.
Early in my first-term as president of the board of education in New York’s Katonah-Lewisboro school district, I was still struggling to adjust to the high-volume of calls I had been receiving since my swearing-in.
Most frequent among those calls were updates from the district’s superintendent, whose primary responsibility was to keep the board of education and me as it’s president, informed.
Just a few days into the job “Hey it’s me again,” replaced “Mark, it’s Henry” as the superintendent’s standard salutation on our often thrice-daily calls.
On October 20, when what should have been my last call that day began, “Mark Lipton this is Henry Sullivan in the district office” (not his real name) the change in salutation and tone of his voice immediately set the mood.
Leaving me no time to even think, “You again?” Henry went on to tell me that two-students at the district’s Lewisboro Elementary school had been murdered.
The superintendent sharing what supports would be in place to support students as they came into school the next morning to hear that their classmates were dead.
The meeting I attended with the teachers and administrators at “LES” that next day remains an enduring memory of my first experience with gun violence.
The following year “Sandy Hook” joined the American consciousness and lexicon when gun violence in Sandy Hook Elementary left 26-dead.
Twenty of whom were children under seven-years-old.
In the days following the Sandy Hook massacre there were more conversations about supporting students effected by violence; many of our students had family and friends in the nearby Newtown, Connecticut elementary school.
Many of those students still struggling with the impacts of Molly and Gregory’s murder just 14-months earlier!
But it was my fiancéeic Gaetana, then just an uncomplicated girlfriend, who would share the news of the shooting in Sandy Hook, sharing that her cousins age ten, eight and seven were among those in the building.
It would be five long hours before the family knew that all three children had survived the attack.
The trigger left by my proximity to those two acts of violence keeping my eyes wet in the days since the latest school shooting. My fingers unwilling to write about paint.
My thoughts, informed by my experience with the effects of gun violence on a school community, are with the students, parents and board of education members of Uvalde, Texas.
Gun violence teaches geography in a uniquely American way. Most of the nearly 20,000 towns in the United States are unknown more than 100-miles beyond it’s borders. Until gun violence puts them into our collective memories.
It is possible to make good public policy without infringing on individual rights.
Write to your senators, congresspeople and state representatives and demand they offer policy proposals which address the plague of gun violence in the United States.
While not infringing on our existing rights!
The more of us who write, the more likely we’ll be to see a policy change which both preserves our rights while working to end the plague of gun violence brought to a vote in Washington. Perhaps then, we can see a reduction in gun violence!