WASHINGTON – The members of Team 26, the cyclists riding in honor of the 26 children and adults killed at Sandy Hook school in December, finished their trip to Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon riding side by side with families of the Virginia Tech victims.
The group started their ride Saturday, one day after a winter storm that left Newtown under a blanket of snow. But organizer Monte Frank says the ride kicked off on a sparkling clear morning, and the riders enjoyed good weather until Tuesday.
A downpour started just before riders gathered at Proteus Bicycles shop in College Park, Md., as they grabbed one last orange slice or oatmeal cookie before the last part of their trip.
Although the rain battered the tents above the heads of cyclists waiting to start, it did nothing to dampen the spirits of the 26 riders.
“This is no ordinary training ride,” said Andrea Myers, one of the participants. She then rolled up the sleeve of her cycling jersey to reveal a cluster of rubber bracelets.
“I have a bracelet with all the names of the victims of Sandy Hook. We’re thinking of them, we’re thinking of their parents, we’re thinking of the people of Sandy Hook. This rain doesn’t phase us at all,” Myers said.
Before braving the rain-soaked last leg from College Park to the Capitol, Team 26 met up with a special group of fellow cyclists, those from the Virginia Tech Victims Family Outreach Foundation.
Omar Samaha, whose sister Reema was killed in the Virginia Tech shootings, spoke to the members of the Newtown group. He explained that as an avid cyclist, he started the Virginia Tech cycling group.
“Thank you to all of you for allowing us to join you. To be united with you guys today on this ride means a lot to us.”
Samaha, who’s been lobbying for what he calls sensible gun measures ever since losing his sister in 2007, says he’s not trying to deny anyone their rights or to engage in a polarizing debate.
“We’re not talking about guns here, we’re talking about who’s buying guns,” he said.
Samaha says the push should be to find common ground. “All over the country, after Newtown, we see people really speaking out. And if there are certain things we can meet on, let’s get that done.”
The message “Just get it done” was echoed when Team 26 arrived on Capitol Hill and met with members Connecticut’s congressional delegation. After a press conference at the U.S. Capitol, the team packed up their bikes and piled into the support vehicles that followed their two-wheeled trek from Connecticut.
But some, like Monte Frank, will stay overnight and keep working to lobby Congress.