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A Marathon Against Gun Violence


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brendaherman-sandyhook-marathonBrenda Herman remembers exactly what she was doing on December 14, 2012. She was at her desk at work, thinking about her husband’s birthday and their plans for a weekend getaway. She was thinking about her friend Michele Bernardino, who was interviewing for a new job. She was, as always, thinking about her young boys. All of those thoughts came to an abrupt halt mid-morning when Herman, and the rest of the world, learned that a young man armed with an automatic rifle had killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school called Sandy Hook. Soon after, she learned that Bernardino’s nephew was a second grader at Sandy Hook, in a classroom across the hall from the first-grade classrooms that had born the brunt of the massacre.

“I was a mess for weeks afterward,” says Herman.

Brenda Herman, like many others in Verona and beyond, has struggled to bring something positive out of the tragedy at Sandy Hook. She learned about the work of a group committed to protecting children from gun violence called Sandy Hook Promise. An avid participant in sports since her childhood in Verona, Herman threw herself into training for long-distance runs. This Sunday, November 6, she will bring all her work together as a member of Team Sandy Hook Promise in the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon.

The 15-person team is one of 340 charity teams running in the storied New York race. They are running to raise awareness for everything from cancer research to veterans’ health, and all of the monies they raise go to their charities and not the marathon: Last year’s charity runners raised nearly $34 million for their causes. The members of Team Sandy Hook Promise had to pledge to raise $5,000 each, though Herman’s personal goal is double that. With just a few short days until she and more than 50,000 other people step off from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, she is almost there, having raised nearly $7,000 from online and offline donations.

“No one thought that it would happen in that tiny town in Connecticut,” says Herman. “But all these problems are on our doorsteps. We can’t assume that we’re protected from gun violence based on our location or demographic. It’s a widespread, national epidemic and a symptom of a much larger mental health crisis.”

The potential for gun violence could even extend to Verona. This spring, prompted by reports of a surge in gun registrations nationwide, MyVeronaNJ.com filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request with the Verona Police Department about registrations here. As of May 23, 2016, the VPD had issued 39 Firearm Purchaser ID Cards and Handgun Purchase Permits. That compared with 46 ID cards issued for all of 2015 and 68 ID cards issued in 2014. New Jersey gun permit holders can request up to three handgun purchase permits at a time, and the permits are valid for 180 days, giving holders the ability to buy up to six handguns per year. There is currently no way of knowing how many handguns or long guns were purchased with the ID cards issued in Verona, or how much ammunition a permit holder has bought. On Feb. 22, 2009, Daniel Pritchard died after being shot in a robbery at the Sunoco gas station on Pompton Avenue, but there have been no other gun deaths in Verona.

Any act of gun violence is one too many for Brenda Herman, as she has reminded her supporters in her training updates over the last few months. And so, as she goes through a few more days of running in the early morning dark, she stays focused on her goal for Sunday. “Since launching my run and fundraising efforts, several more tragic events have taken place which continue to be a source of tragic motivation,” she said in her October update. “Most recently, a 14-year-old fatally shot a 6-year-old boy and injured others at an elementary school playground in South Carolina. And as you are well aware, many others have been impacted in the crossfire of poor gun control across the nation because guns, particularly automatic-weapons, are in the hands of the wrong people.”

If you want to help Brenda Herman reach her Team Sandy Hook Promise goal, her donation page is here.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].


  1. Sandy Hook shooter didn’t use automatic weapons. And neither did the 14 year old who shot the 6 year old.

    If we’re going to have an honest conversation about guns, let’s at least understand their function and capabilities.

  2. Sandy Hook Promise is not anti-gun owner. They state clearly on their legislative platform page that they support gun violence prevention and mental health programs that can identify people who might want to hurt themselves or others. As for guns’ capabilities, the statistics are clear: The death rate from gun homicides in the U.S. is about 31 per million people. In Germany, it’s 2 of every million people. In Japan, it’s one in 10 million.


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