A Warwick bartender is scheduled to be one of several Rhode Islanders attending the State of the Union speech in the joint session of Congress on Feb. 12. James Tyrell, who works at the Greenwood Inn, said he got a call from Congressman James Langevin’s office about being his guest at the Capitol where President Barack Obama is expected to speak about the necessity of more universal gun control to end an “epidemic” of gun violence that has been sweeping the country.
“It was Jan. 30, 2004, when my sister Debby was killed,” Tyrell recalled. “We just got a call from Langevin’s office asking me if I would be his guest as a person whose family was a victim of gun violence.”
Debby Tyrell owned the West End Mart on Bucklin Street in Providence. Tyrell said his family was celebrating an anniversary the day she was shot and she should have been at the party at that time but the store was very busy and she stayed later than usual. He said she liked the people in the neighborhood and often let them get milk or other items and pay her later. He said she felt obligated to stay open as long as they were coming in. Tyrell said his sister’s boyfriend was in the backroom of the store at the time but the robbers were gone by the time he came out of the back.
“They never caught the guy and they never found the gun,” said Tyrell. “They are both still out there on the street.”
Tyrell said his family was deep in their grief when they heard from the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence in Providence that offers support to the victims of violent crime while promulgating the idea of nonviolence as an approach to social problems. Tyrell said he was very impressed with the group and their work.
“For the last nine years I have been holding a golf tournament at the Cranston Country Club to raise money for them,” said Tyrell. “We’ve raised about $20,000 over the years.”
Tyrell said being invited to Washington is an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.
“To be part of this is beyond our wildest dreams,” he said. “It’s a chance to tell people ‘Enough is enough’ and we have to get guns off the streets.”
Tyrell said the two-day trip will include a tour of the Capitol and a trip to the White House. He said he doesn’t expect it, but if he should run into the president at the White House, he’ll say,
“I hope you can help us stop gun violence.”