Carolyn McCarthy was born Carolyn Cook in 1944 in Brooklyn, NY. One of five children born to Tom and Irene Cook, she was raised in Long Island and graduated from Mineola High School in 1962. Deciding to pursue a career in nursing after caring for a boyfriend who had been seriously injured in a
car accident, she completed her professional training at Glen Cove School of Practical Nursing and, in 1964, began working as an intensive-care nurse.
Soon after she met Dennis McCarthy and the couple married in 1967. On December 7, 1993, her life as a Long Island nurse, wife and mother was permanently and tragically altered. That day a rampaging gunman killed 6 people and wounded 19 aboard a Long Island Railroad commuter train. Among the dead was her husband Dennis. Her son Kevin, then 26, was severely injured and left paralyzed by the attack. In the wake of the shooting, in mourning for her husband and caring for her son who suffered brain damage, McCarthy captured public attention with her fierce and emotional attacks on the powerful gun lobby. Transformed by tragic circumstances into a committed and passionate advocate for the victims of gun violence, she launched a personal crusade for stricter gun controls.
Angered when her congressional representative, Republican Dan Frisa, voted to repeal a federal ban on certain assault weapons, lifelong Republican McCarthy changed her affiliation and ran against Frisa in the 1996 Congressional election. She won decisively with 57 percent of the vote and was elected the U.S. Representative for New York’s 4th congressional district and the first female member of Congress from Long Island. She represented her district for nine terms until her retirement in January 2015.