More than 200 hospital workers, faith leaders and community members gathered outside the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center emergency room on Thursday to speak out against gun violence in the wake of two recent shootings that sent shock waves through the borough.
The vigil was organized in the wake of the deaths of Tracy Sin-Yee Tam, a family physician at Bronx-Lebanon who was killed in a shooting rampage last Friday, and NYPD Officer Miosotis Familia, who was gunned down as she sat in a mobile command center on Wednesday.
A stage set up in the street hosted a string of speakers offering their condolences and leading prayers, while a few yards away people wrote messages of support and hung them on a memorial stand dedicated to Tam and Familia.
The crowd was full of teary eyes and somber hugs, and many listened silently with their heads bowed, holding candles or each other’s hands.
Carolyn Middleton, a 67-year-old retiree who lives around the corner from the hospital, came out as a show of solidarity for the community, which she described as being a close family.
“I don’t know most of the people here,” she said. “But I feel their pain so much; I’m just at a loss for words. We need to do what we can to stop this sort of senseless violence.”
Middleton added that she wished that Henry Bello, the man who police said opened fire in the hospital last Friday, had gotten the mental health support he needed.
Alongside the religious leaders onstage stood a few members of the New York State Assembly, including Diana Richardson of Brooklyn, who said she was deeply hurt when she heard what happened.
“I send my condolences to all of you,” Richardson told the crowd. “We have to tackle gun violence every day, not just when there’s a tragedy.”
As the speeches continued into the early evening, attendees made their way toward the memorial to write notes such as “You will never be forgotten” and “You are our angels.”
The tone of the vigil was somber, but its message was not one of sadness; rather, those who took the stage emphasized unity and hope in times of darkness. Many urged mourners to celebrate the lives of Tam and Familia.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito offered her condolences to the NYPD and the Bronx-Lebanon community.
“We are out here trying to make sense of the senseless,” she said. “These women were out here serving our city, our community, and they were senselessly gunned down while they were doing that.”
The crowd was dotted with those wearing white medical coats and blue smocks – some coming straight from the hospital, some on their way there. The speakers periodically took breaks to accommodate for the varying shifts, in hopes that as many from the hospital could join the vigil.
Wilma Mitchell, 53, has worked at Bronx-Lebanon Fulton Division for the past 27 years and considers her colleagues part of her family.
“My heart just dropped when I heard what happened … It’s that feeling that something terrible happened that you have no control over,” she said. “I’m glad to see so many people coming out here to support this one cause.”
Religious leaders from the community offered prayers in both English and Spanish, with those in the audience nodding their heads at the words of peace.
At one point, a pastor from the community asked the crowd to give a round of applause for the lives of Tam and Familia. And a couple members of the crowd held up signs saying “guns down, life up.”