Remembering the LIRR massacre and the victims 30 years later

Friday, December 8, 2023
LIRR Massacre 30 years later
N.J. Burkett looks back on the massacre he first covered 30 years ago.

LONG ISLAND, New York (WABC) -- Thursday marks 30 years since there was a deadly shooting on a Long Island Rail Road train.

A man from Brooklyn named Colin Ferguson opened fire inside the commuter train to Hicksville on December 7, 1993.

Six passengers were killed and 19 others were hurt.

Ferguson is serving a 315-year prison sentence.

Survivors of the deadly shooting are still dealing with the aftermath three decades later.

Lisa Combatti was one of 19 people wounded and, at the time, seven months pregnant.

"We have an X-ray at home that shows my spine and the baby's spine and the bullet. And that we both survived, we're so lucky," she said back at the 25th anniversary of the massacre.

I will say this year I finally got some closure because when the Long Island Railroad started going into Grand Central, they updated the train schedule and the 5:33 is no more
Lisa Combatti

Combatti said she's in a good place now that 30 years have passed, but there was a time that she couldn't imagine her life in 2023.

"I'm in a great place. My family's in a great place. My daughter is getting married next year. We've had 30 wonderful years that a lot of people didn't have, and I feel grateful for that as we stand here on a New York City street, I'm still working, you know, in the city commuting back and forth," she said.

Combatti also reflected on what it's like to get on the railroad now after all these years.

"When I think about the first time I got on the railroad after the shooting was also my first day leaving my daughter home by herself. So I think as a mother, that kind of helped me because I was more concerned about her than I was about myself," she said. "So, I still commute from the same station from Merillon Avenue, but it was always my wish to not let what happened to me rule my life. So, I wanted to be a stronger person and I wanted to keep going. I do have some weekdays, you know, there's some things that remind me of different things. I will say this year I finally got some closure because when the Long Island Railroad started going into Grand Central, they updated the train schedule and the 5:33 is no more."

She says that time change was a good thing for her.

"And that was actually kind of pivotal because I didn't have to look at that train schedule and constantly get that reminder of the 5:33. So that also put me in a good place," Combatti said.

A wreath was placed in remembrance of the LIRR mass shooting victims.

Joyce Gorycki lost her husband, James in the attack. For the past 30 years, she's been a tireless advocate for gun control.

She says she is still angry after all these years.

For many relatives of the victims, and the survivors, there is bitterness and astonishment that the number of mass shootings has exploded since the railroad massacre.

"I'll never give up. I'll keep speaking out until the day I die," Gorycki said.

Charlie Minn produced a documentary on the LIRR Massacre, one of 10 films he's made about mass shootings in America.

"At the time, it was a rarity to have mass shootings of that type of nature. Now we're averaging two per day," Minn said.

Combatti asks the same questions. While focusing on her own life, today.

"I realize what could have been, and you know, you can't be more grateful when you experience something like that to realize what you have," Combatti said.


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