Terrence Harris, a supervisor with the city’s Sanitation Department and a Long Beach School District custodian, is the father of a 25-year-old son, Nikolas, and 20-year-old daughter, Ashley. Needless to say, last Friday’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. — where 20 children and six adults were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School — shook him as a parent.
“My kids were that age once,” he said. “This really touched home, and every time I think about it and see it on TV, it hurts.”
Harris, 46, is among the many local residents who, like those throughout the country, are in a state of disbelief over what is being called one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.
After Long Beach received an outpouring of support from volunteers and organizations from across the country in the days following Hurricane Sandy, Harris and his co-workers at sanitation — who he said worked tirelessly during the city’s cleanup and recovery efforts — said that they felt compelled to do something in response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.
“We were sitting down to breakfast one day and we said, ‘what could we possibly do?’” said Harris, who is also a volunteer firefighter. “When I saw the support that people gave us — Long Beach was in dire need with this hurricane — now another tragedy has hit, and it’s time for us to show them our support.”
So Harris and his crew decided to raise money for the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, an effort launched by the United Way of Western Connecticut in partnership with Newtown Savings Bank. The fund is aimed at providing support services to the families and community affected by the tragedy.
Harris said that he reached out to employees in every city department, including the Police and Fire Departments, asking workers to donate $20 each. City officials such as City Manager Jack Schnirman and Police Commissioner Mike Tangney, he explained, did not hesitate to offer their support.
“When we talk about national safety and public outreach, and the support that we’ve been the benefactors of through Superstorm Sandy, this is a way of paying it forward,” Tangney said. “So many people came to our aid … it was only right that with this tragedy, we reach out and help them.”