New memorial for rampage shooting victims

As the semester comes to a close, so do the wounds of the campus shooting victims. A memorial service for Carolos and Marcela Franco, slain on Pearl Street on June 7, gathered a crowd of students, faculty and family on the quad in front of the Main Stage at Santa Monica College on Thursday.

Chui L. Tsang, president and superintendent of the college, led the memorial as family of Margarita Gomez and the Franco family sat before him.

“This garden was Carlos Franco’s office, a place where he came to work, to plant, to heal, to restore and to grow,” Tsang said.

A bronze plaque picturing Carlos and Marcela together is embedded in a rock next to a blue bench. Below their photos, the inscription reads, “Family is where life begins and love never ends.”

“I’m very pleased to be a part of this celebration; I’m very proud of the college and everything that was done for the family,” said Ramona Franco, Carlos’ widow. “I have no other words to describe how the college has supported.”

She said she will not be spending the holidays in Santa Monica, saying it is too painful.

Nancy Greenstein, chair of the Board of Trustees, spoke about the power of memory.

“I wanted to talk about the ability to remember,” she said. “The ability to remember is quite special. Imagine life without memory. Today we are here because we have a special place in our hearts, in our minds for Carlos Franco. We bring our memories here with us as we think about our friends, our family members, our colleagues.”

[nggallery id=19]

John Zawahri began his rampage at the home he shared with his father and brother, killing them before setting fire to his house. He then hijacked a car, instructing the driver to go to SMC, where he killed three people before walking into the campus library. His shooting rampage ended there.

Margareth Quinonez-Perez spoke on behalf of the family, saying,  “The last five months have been pretty public. It’s been kind of uncomfortable for us. When you’re in pain, everyone feels the pain differently. There is a part of us that wants to see you and not see you. It’s been hard.”

Quinonez-Perez shared a personal story from Leticia, Carlos’s oldest daughter.

“Last night, Carlos was in Let’s dreams; he wouldn’t go away,” she said. “She tried to wake up and he wouldn’t go away, he kept saying ‘I’m here! I’m back!' Knowing Carlos, it’s probably his way of saying he’s here right now, and he is here right now.”

Carlos worked for the college as a groundskeeper and was killed on Pearl Street after being shot by Zawahri, causing him to drive his car through a cement wall. His daughter was riding passenger and was also shot.

“He was an important member of this community, and he was dedicated to his job in a way that represented the work of the college as a whole,” Tsang said after the ceremony.

A memorial also stands for Gomez at the college entrance, next to the vigil placed in her honor.

Quinonez-Perez said that the memorial is another step toward closure. Although it is a wound that will never go away completely, their family is stronger than ever.

“Thank you, and don’t pity us; don’t pity us," she said. "Remember this family is held by love and respect and nothing, not a gunman, nothing is going to break this family."

For more Corsair coverage from the candlelight vigil held after the shooting, click here.