Mourners Remember Slaughter at Restaurant
SAN YSIDRO, Calif. (AP) _ They came bearing flowers - some weeping, some in stony silence, all remembering on a warm, breezy July evening the tragedy that formed their common bond.
It was one year ago Thursday that James Oliver Huberty burst into a McDonald’s restaurant in this border community and opened fire, killing 21 people before being slain by a police sharpshooter.
An estimated 400 people crowded into a church to attend a memorial Mass for the victims of the country’s worst single-day massacre by a single gunman.
Among them was Mario Victoria, whose parents, Miguel Victoria and Aida Velasquez de Victoria, would have marked their 50th wedding anniversary in May.
Clutching two flower-filled vases - one for his 70-year-old mother and one for his 73-year-old father - Victoria stood outside after the 40-minute service and remembered the moment he realized his parents’ fate.
″When I became aware of what was happening, I was in the next-door market,″ he said through a translator. ″I knew my parents were in there. And I knew I could do nothing for them.″
Since the killings, Victoria and his sister, Sylvia Victoria de Ramirez, said family members have banded together in an effort to cope with the loss.
″A year does make a difference,″ she said. ″We have gone on. United, we have continued. We help each other.″
Earlier, Monsignor Francisco Aldasoro of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church had urged mourners to do just that in a sermon delivered in Spanish.
″If they could talk,″ he said, referring to the massacre victims, ″what do you think they would tell you? They would say move on.″
Moving on has been easier for some than for others.
Carlos Reyes, whose pregnant wife, Jacki, and eight-month-old son, Carlos, were killed, still finds it difficult to go into the house they once shared and chose not to attend Thursday’s service.
His father, Ernesto Reyes, said since losing his daughter-in-law and grandson, he has been in the hospital three times for heart troubles. He proved it by unbuttoning his shirt and displaying a patch covering an incision scar on his chest.
″Why did it happen? Why did it happen? Why did it happen?″ the older Reyes asked.
The church, on a windy hill overlooking San Ysidro, was the site of many of the victims’ funerals and filled to capacity with survivors, victims’ friends and relatives, and law enforcement officers who had been at the massacre.
Twenty-one flower-filled vases - one for each victim - lined the altar and were distributed to victims’ families at the end of the service. Later, some mourners went to the vacant lot where the McDonald’s once stood and put flowers at the foot of a small statue of Jesus, placed there by an unknown person.
″I don’t feel as sick as I did that night, but it will never go away. I still feel bad,″ San Diego Police Chief Bill Kolender said after the service.
″San Ysidro may one day feel the same as they did before the massacre, but everyone who saw it will never, never forget it.″