Following 12/14, “none of us slept,” admitted resident Monte Frank. During those quiet nighttime hours, he said, “It came to me.” He had the idea to organize a cyclist’s ride from Newtown to Washington, D.C., to promote “the immediate need” for gun safety legislation.
On March 9, at 8:30 am, a large rally at Reed Intermediate School will send off Team 26, a group of 26 cyclists, on a Sandy Hook Ride on Washington, a 400-mile, four-day ride to the US capitol. The rally, memorializing those killed at Sandy Hook School, is intended to raise awareness for gun safety legislation. Specifically: requiring all gun buyers to pass criminal background checks, instituting a ban of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, making gun trafficking a federal crime, including real penalties for “straw buyers,” and strengthening gun ownership restrictions for people with severe mental illness.
Invited to the rally are First Selectman Pat Llodra, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Senator Chris Murphy, US Representative Elizabeth Esty (D-5), and US Representative Jim Himes (D-4).
Mr Frank made a few phone calls after that sleepless night, and soon he and others were coordinating a ride with a purpose: to remember what has occurred in Sandy Hook and “to demonstrate to Congress that the ‘Connecticut effect’ is growing.” He wants to “keep the focus on enacting meaningful gun safety legislation,” he said.
Among Team 26 members who met with Mr Frank at the Newtown Municipal Center Monday evening was Gary Lyke, who told WFSB Chanel 3, “We need to do something.” After speaking with the news crew, Mr Lyke, a Brookfield resident, offered details of a personal connection to the Sandy Hook School teacher Victoria Soto, who died on December 14. Mr Frank’s daughter Sarah was one of Ms Soto’s students several years ago. Sarah had asked Mr Lyke, who served in the Army in Vietnam, to be her guest veteran at the school for three years.
He recalled the ceremonies in the classrooms: “To have all these kids honor the veterans, go out for flag raising, say the Pledge of Allegiance.” Then he thought of 12/14, saying, “I cannot put those two images together, I can’t understand it. I can’t accept it.”
Rally And Ride
After riders begin their journey on March 9 they will travel to another rally in Ridgefield at 11 am at Veterans’ Park Elementary School, hosted by US Representative Himes and First Selectman Rudy Marconi. Rep Himes and Bethel First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker will be riding with Team 26 from Newtown to Ridgefield.
The team next aims to arrive in Washington on March 12at 1 pm, for a press conference at which the Congressional delegation will welcome the riders. Among the 26 cyclists are professional, top amateur, and masters cyclists from throughout the Northeast. Three members of the riding team are from Newtown, including Mr Frank, Bill Muzzio, and Chris Peck. Two of the riders have children who went to the Sandy Hook School and the team includes parents, teachers, a Newtown police officer and a Vietnam veteran. The team also includes a former US National Team member, Canadian National Team member, Masters National Champion, and State and Regional Champions. Throughout the journey, the riders will be accompanied by a Newtown police motorcycle with stops in cities and towns along the way.
For more information on the rally, the riders, and the four-day Sandy Hook Ride on Washington, check the Sandy Hook Ride on Washington Facebook page. The organizers encourage all members of the community to join the rally and come and see the cyclists off from Newtown.