CSI Hosts Town Hall for Our Lives

Shooting Survivor Ryan Deitsch Speaks Out

By: Victoria Ifatusin

Credit: Victoria Ifatusin

The students behind the March For Our Lives protest in Washington D.C. is taking their message on the road and have arrived here at CSI.

Organized by Michael Arvanites, a March for Our Lives representative, the Town Hall took place on April 7 at the Recital Hall in 1P at the College of Staten Island, with over 150 people attending the event.

The panel included Ryan Deitsch, a student from Majory Stoneman Douglas High School, students from schools around the area, government officials such as Councilwoman Debi Rose and State Senator Diane Savino, and candidates running to represent Staten Island in Congress. Congressman Dan Donovan, who was invited to the event, did not attend.

The “March for Our Lives” took place in Washington D.C., just four weeks after the shooting, organized by Deitsch and his peers from Stoneman Douglas. The event’s purpose was to voice the ideas and steps that need to be taken to eradicate gun violence.

Lindy P. Crescitelli, the chairman of the event, credited the people who contributed to having people from Staten Island, Syracuse, New Jersey and other places in the area to go to Washington with seventeen buses.

The town hall began with reading the names of the seventeen students and teachers who were killed at the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida. It was then followed by a moment of silence, as seventeen seconds were spent remembering the each of the the fallen.

Before the members of the panel spoke, former Staten Island resident and mother of victim Alyssa Alhadeff, Lori Alhadeff, shared her account via Skype of what she experienced when she heard her daughter was shot on that fateful day.

Alhadeff began with saying that it was Valentine’s Day, a day that her daughter was looking forward to.

After dropping Alyssa off at school and telling her that she loved her, Alhadeff was alarmed by a text message she received, saying, “Shots fired at Stoneman Douglas High School.”

Credit: Victoria Ifatusin

Without hesitation, Alhadeff made her way to the school, then to the hospital in hopes to see her daughter – but to no prevail.

“I was screaming,” she said. “I was grabbing myself, putting my nails into my skin because I had this sense of loss that something is wrong with Alyssa.”

After waiting for hours to see her, Alhadeff called her daughter “beautiful” with pale closed eyes.

“I started screaming to God,” she said. “‘Why? Why would you take Alyssa? Alyssa is one of the great ones!”

On the day of her funeral, items that belonged to Alyssa was put into her casket, and as the casket lowered, Alhadeff couldn’t let herself go from touching the coffin.

This moved Alhadeff to start a non-profit organization called “Make Schools Safe” with the mission of ensuring that all schools are safe with practices that can be implemented for children’s safety.

“…Because if one child dies on the school’s watch, nothing else matters,” she said.

Ryan Deitsch was introduced by a video that included his outspoken question to Senator Rubio, “Why do we have to march on Washington, just to save innocent lives?”

Deitsch was happy that the room had no empty chairs but showed his anger towards the government officials for not coming.

Credit: Victoria Ifatusin

“All that we’ve been through,” he said. “And a representative would not show up to meet with his own people.”

He told the audience of his experience with the town hall he had in Florida and called it “a waste of time,” saying that the people who attended were “light-minded people.”

It was at that town hall where the decision to make students wear clear plastic backpacks was implemented.

Deitsch’s sister uses the bag herself and has expressed her right to privacy being exploited by the transparent bookbag.

He went on to point out a obvious problem with the town hall: only democratic supporters were in the audience.

“That’s the issue,” he said. “We need to sit down together, we need to talk together. We need to sit down at the table instead of throwing chairs.”

He mentioned that there are problems that need to be addressed, but the government is rather slow and may decide to not reform anything at all.

Deitsch gave an example of the “No Fly, No Buy” bill, where a person who is on the terrorist watch list will be denied the purchase of a gun and the right to buy a legal weapon. Although, such bill has not been put into place.

Deitsch reminded everyone the importance of voting.

Other students like Nicholas Chin, John Papanier, and Devyn Sword also made an appearance and further expressed the importance of fighting for our lives.

Chin demonstrated the issue as a “human lives issue.” When it came to voting, Sword stated, “If you don’t stand with us, you are against us, and you will be voted out.” Papanier also stated how people like Ryan, Emma Gonzales, and other youth leaders as an “inspiration” for him to also fight for his life and the lives of others.

Senator Diane Savino also took the stage by commending the youths at the panel, encouraging them to not stop fighting. She acknowledged the acts that were put in place for the New York State and how it is saving the citizens of New York.

“After Sandy Hook in 2012, the New York State enacted the New York State Safe Act, the toughest gun control law in the country,” Savino said.

She also noted the policy in which a citizen with a mental health problem cannot purchase a gun in New York City. With the event that happened on February 14, she promises that the New York State government is going to fight for the lives of their citizens.

Councilwoman Debi Rose also attended and further explained the importance of voting.

“We are sending the wrong people to Washington who are tone deaf to what the people are saying,” she said. “You don’t have to violate the constitution to make people safe.”

Many attempts have been made to eradicate gun violence, Rose said, but they keep saying “never again” and more attacks are taking place.

“So, when does never ever come?” she asked, to which the audience replied, “Now!”

After the students and government officials spoke, questions were asked by the audience and the topic of guidance counselors was brought up.

A member of the audience, who is a guidance counselor at an elementary school, said that she is only funded to work for two days within the school week. This limits the time she has to see students who need assistance, as well as the fifth graders who are supposed to be getting prepared for junior high school.  

This gave an opportunity for those running for office who attended to state their views and what they would do for the state of New York. Those congressional candidates being Max Rose, Michael Devito, Zach Emig, Paul Sperling and Radhakrishna Mohan.

After the event, Deitsch was asked if his career path has changed due to all that he has experienced. He replied: “I wanted to be a comedian.” He was never a fan of being serious and mentioned that he would tell jokes to others to make them smile.

He had the plan of being near The Second City, an improv comedy troupe that is located in different areas in the country. Famous comedians such as Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert are alumni of the troupe, and Deitsch wants to be one of them.  

Although, with the series of events that have taken place, Deitsch simply said, “Now, I have no idea what I want to do!”


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