WASHINGTON – It was two weeks of sleepless nights after his daughter’s third-grade teacher and 25 others were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary when an idea came to Monte Frank in the middle of the night.
Frank wanted to ride his bike from Newtown, Conn., to the nation’s capital to rally for gun safety laws.
“The very next morning I got up and called some of my friends in the cycling world and said, ‘Hey what do you think of this?’ They were in and wanted to know how to get going,” he said.
Tuesday marked the third annual Ride on Washington. Frank, 46, an attorney, organized the event. He was joined by 25 fellow Newtown residents and others who have been affected by gun violence. Known as Team 26, the bikers represent each student and educator who lost their lives in the 2012 shooting.
The green-clad group began its 400-mile trek Saturday morning, and by 2 p.m. Tuesday the bikers were rolling onto the House Triangle on the Capitol grounds. The team members were exhausted as they laid their bikes on the grass and pulled their helmets off.
“We made it,” one of them said. “Almost in one piece.”
There was an accident along the way as one member hit a pothole and fell off his bike. Team 26 faced a snowstorm as it left Connecticut and was pounded by headwinds and crosswinds throughout the journey.
“We’re all pretty good riders, but the conditions were horrible,” Frank said. “If it weren’t for this cause, there’s no way I would’ve been on my bike.”
Frank made a brief stop in Southeast Washington before rejoining the group as it arrived at the Capitol. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., joined Frank at Faith Presbyterian Church for a quick prayer and meeting with Nardyne Jeffries, 45, a database coordinator.
Jeffries’ daughter, Brishell Jones, was one of four people shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in 2010 – she was 16. Jeffries has advocated for gun safety laws ever since and reflected on her daughter’s death.
“Someday, I’ll snap out of this dream, and Brishell will be here,” Jeffries said. “It hasn’t happened yet.”
With Norton and Jeffries in a car and Frank on his bike, the trio made its way to the Capitol. Cheers led the group toward the finish line, and Norton spoke when everyone arrived.
“I hope we understand this is no time for patience. This is a time for persistence,” she said. “Team 26, so struck by grief, has refused to fail. By refusing to fail, they’ve strengthened the rest of us.”
Frank, sporting a Newtown ball cap, stood at the podium and pleaded for Congress to pass stricter gun laws. He urged members to consider the newly introduced Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act that would require background checks for every gun purchase.
Team 26 stood behind Frank and stood up to Congress. The group pledged to keep pedaling until something gets done.
But after the press conference, it was finally time to rest. Four days and 400 miles of biking had taken its toll.
Frank smiled when asked how he’s getting back to Newtown.
“We’re hopping in the vans and going home.”
Reach reporter Joe Mussatto at [email protected] or 202-408-1493. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
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