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Scott J. Beigel died protecting his students.
The 35-year-old Dix Hills native, a geography teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was one of 17 people killed on Feb. 14 when a shooter opened fire in the Parkland, Florida, school. He was shot while turning to lock his classroom door after guiding students inside for safety.
And on Saturday, Beigel’s family, friends and former students, along with state, county and local officials, gathered to ensure his death would never be forgotten, by dedicating Hart Place —the street he grew up on — in his honor.
“Someday when someone says, ‘Why is this street named Scott Beigel?’ there will be a powerful story to tell about a movement that started with his death and the death of young people who did nothing more than show up for school one day,” Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said at the ceremony Saturday. “It is in their name that we carry on this movement, this fight.”
To find Camp Starlight, take Route 17 to Hancock, New York, near where the state’s southern border bends down toward New York City. Cross into Pennsylvania and follow Route 370 for a few miles. Look for the stone pillars that mark the entrance to the camp, which opened in 1947. Drive down a dirt road through a tunnel of trees until you emerge into sunlight and what appears to be the summer camp of dreams.
There is a timeless quality about the place, which is being readied for the arrival of the first group of campers. It must have seemed this idyllic in 1959, when a music counselor named Paul Simon was recording songs as Jerry Landis. Songs like “When You Come Back to School.”
This is also where you would have found Scott Beigel for the past 28 summers. He first came to Starlight as a reluctant camper whose mother, Linda, gave him prepared fill-in-the-bubble notes to send home to Long Island. He returned, year after year, until he became a beloved staff member. Photos on the camp’s Facebook page show his growth over the years — and the constant sense of fun that made him so popular.
All through the night, River Valladares pinwheeled between the TV and his phone, channel-surfing and texting, filtering the news and rumors, exchanging information with his teammates on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School cross-country team, frantically groping to determine who could be accounted for and who was still missing.
The 18-year-old tried lying down, but he couldn’t sleep. When he closed his eyes, images from the day burned through his brain. He saw backpacks flying over a chain-link fence, heard the caterwaul of sirens. The sound seemed to cleave his life in two, the innocent one before 2:21 that afternoon, and all the hours and days to follow.