By Hannah Kim and Gayathri Suresh
At 11:20 a.m. on Tuesday, terrified employees and customers fled the store as gunshots rang out at a local Stop & Shop in West Hempstead.
At 11:42 a.m., the New Hyde Park Memorial community heard an announcement over the loudspeaker announcing a lockout. But this time, it was not a drill. As class continued, Amber Alerts and notifications flooded the phones of staff and students, and they learned of an active shooting less than five miles away that left one person dead and two others severely injured.
The suspect in the shooting was a 31-year-old man named Gabriel DeWitt Wilson, who was an employee at the grocery store. After the shooting, he fled the scene and therefore, the local police ordered every school in the surrounding area under lockdown or lockouts. The lockout at New Hyde Park Memorial was lifted after 8th period when the suspect was apprehended and arrested at an apartment in Hempstead.
“I thought the lockout was a little scary for everyone. When we think of New Hyde Park, we think of it as a safe haven where nothing goes wrong. I think the lockout showed us that there are dangers no matter where we are, and, instead, we have procedures in place to keep students safe,” said senior Pranav Palanickal.
The lockout meant that no one was to enter or leave the school building. Teachers who were teaching at another school or seniors who went out during their free periods were not able to return, and this definitely spiked a sense of insecurity during the school day.
“Initially, when I heard about the gun violence in Hempstead, I felt anxious, and the announcement of the lockout made me become a bit scared. The fact that this incident occurred 15 minutes away meant that it could have easily occurred in our hometown NHP. How can anyone lead a normal life when they have to think twice before going into a grocery store? Gun violence is a very prominent issue in our country today, and it must be resolved. It should not be this easy for someone to take the lives of innocent people. Our lawmakers must impose stricter laws to regulate the use of guns and eradicate gun violence,” said senior Aarti Devjani.
“...having an incident happen so local was a reality check...”
The horrific shooting in the immediate local area has added to the conversation about enforcing stricter gun regulations in order to prevent events such as the Sandy Hook, Rock Hill, South Carolina, and Bryan, Texas shootings as well as the recent supermarket shooting in Colorado. Many students have taken a stance in regards to the “gun violence epidemic” in the United States.
“I feel like having an incident happen so local was a reality check. We always hear on the news about shootings in other states and I always feel like it’s so far away and continue on with my day, but what I think a lot of people fail to realize is that we are all facing this problem together. When one shooting happens in the US, no matter the state, all people living on US soil should feel the effects. I think now more than ever it’s important to address the issue from a rational standpoint without bias from a political party or affiliation. This isn’t Democrat vs Republican, but rather how we can keep legal/illegal weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals,” said sophomore Fiona O'Reilly.
“It’s scary but not surprising. It just felt like it was bound to happen. There needs to be gun regulations from the federal level. I’m tired of hearing about “thoughts and prayers” when there is real action that can be done,” said junior Daniella Canning.
Previously, The Chariot addressed the imminent issue of gun control in an April 2021 editorial. The article discussed crucial topics such as why America might be suffering politically when attempting to address gun control as well as how students perceive the issue.
“The violence and atrocities against others that everyone used to just see on paper are coming alive...”
Apart from gun violence alone, there has been a rise in violence and heinous crimes in the local community. On March 17, Nafiah Ikram, a Hofstra University student, Elmont resident, and NHP Memorial alumna was returning home after work when a man came into her driveway, attacked her and threw acid all over her face and body. Due to these events, some community members feel unsafe going to the store or even walking outside of their own houses.
“When I heard about the incident that happened so close to home, it made me really think that something like this can happen anywhere, not just in the news,” said senior Sakib Azgar.
However, these significant situations are wake up calls. The violence and atrocities against others that everyone used to just see on paper are coming alive and creating panic in the community. This is a reminder that everyone - from students to government officials - hold the power to speak up to push for change and to advocate for the safety of others. “We’ve had enough” may be the necessary spark in order to break the cycle of violence in the world today.