Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting victims: We owe them a memorial

The large teddy bear has a layer of dust, and the candles are burned out. The cut flowers are wilted. Some of the handwritten notes are smudged by the morning dew, others are faded by the late-summer sun or were distributed along the Uvas Creek levee by gusts of wind. At one of the two makeshift memorials framing the Miller Avenue entrance to Christmas Hill Park, three large printed names stand out: Keyla, Trevor, Stephen.

Stephen Romero was shot and killed in his mother’s arms as they fled gunfire in Gourmet Alley at the Gilroy Garlic Festival July 28. His life ended at age 6. Keyla Salazar, also fatally wounded by one of the 39 bullets fired by Santino Legan that afternoon, was buried in San Jose just before her 14th birthday. Trevor Irby’s dreams of a medical career were cut short at age 25, as he fell mortally wounded in the festival shooting.

There were other victims that day. The small business owners cut down by high velocity bullets as they rushed they killer. The middle-aged man whose legs were shattered at close range. The cheerleader wounded in the hip. The young woman with no health insurance who still has a rifle slug in her liver. The young man whose life was saved by a nurse whose tourniquet stopped the bleeding wound in his leg. For these and others, scars will remain, pain will linger for months, or years or a lifetime, the injuries and related insurance co-payments and deductibles will threaten families’ financial stability and months of rehabilitation lie ahead. 

Hundreds of volunteers, many of them students and teachers, and business owners in booths and tents in Gourmet Alley ducked for cover in terror as bullets pinged off and through their equipment. Thousands of festival attendees ran for cover in the longest minute of their lives. For all of those at the Gilroy park that day, crowds and loud noises will be fatefully embedded in their consciousness with the sights and sounds of a horrific mass shooting.

These folks, as well as the families and friends of victims and survivors, the dozens of city workers, first responders, Good Samaritans and strangers from afar touched by the stories from Gilroy on July 28, 2019—they all need a fixed place of remembrance at the scene of this summer’s mayhem. They need, this community needs, a place to quietly reflect, pray, weep or meditate on the lives lost and the innocence lost on that day.

The fitting next stage of the grieving process needs to be a permanent, prominent memorial located on the sacred ground, at the spot where three young lives were taken from this world. The memorial will be a symbol of the community’s resolve to fight hate, oppose violence against innocents and defeat the designs of evildoers with a community response that signifies our commitment to continue as a community united.

The support for this memorial should come from all corners of the community, evidence of this community’s capacity to show its heart and honor attendees who came to Gilroy expecting life, not death.

The Gilroy City Council and some community leaders are discussing plans for some kind of memorial. They need to hear your ideas. Send them directly, or send to us and we will publish them and pass them on.

The pain of loss, the healing in grieving, the value in remembering should not — cannot be neatly put to rest under new topsoil and turf. The bloodstains will alway be there. The strength that builds a community after a tragedy of this magnitude also needs to be put to use to build a memorial to the victims of that tragedy at the scene of the tragedy. We owe them that.

2 COMMENTS

  1. We owe them a memorial for sure. It would also be nice in my opinion, to also maybe , start scholarships in their names. We must never forget them. This was a tragedy that I never ever expected to happen in our town. Yes, to a memorial!

  2. This needs to be done. As the editorial says, “we owe them that”. A permanent prominent memorial, yes. The location, permanent, but not so prominent. A place to quietly reflect, pray, grieve, yes, but not a visible, constant reminder to all of the tragedy of that took place that dark day. Many will come, some to remember, some who’d rather forget. We must honor both. In New York’s iconic Central Park, there is a secluded, yet easily found area named Strawberry Fields. Within this shaded, peaceful setting is a tiled mosaic set into the concrete courtyard with the word “Imagine” spelled out in black and white mosaic. It is a place where people come to reflect, to pray, to sing. All in peaceful celebration of a life that came to a tragic end. I think this should be on the minds of those in our community who will design and choose a site to honor those whose lives were forever changed on that dark day. Some will come to remember, some will come to forget.

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