Franco family holds private memorial in spot where family died at SMC

Relatives of Carlos and Marcela Franco, the Santa Monica College grounds keeper and his daughter who were tragically gunned down by John Zawahri on June 7, 2013 took some time away from the masses, vigils and memorials on Saturday to hold a private memorial by the parking lot on Pearl Street, the scene of Carlos and Marcela's death. Since the shooting the wall through which the Franco's truck crashed after the assault has been rebuilt, now adorned with a plaque in memory of the victims. But a more profound, spiritual memorial composed of notes, letters and flowers has remained in place since the day of the attack.

The last year has been "long, sad, hard," said Vanessa Enriquez, who described Marcela as her best friend. "It's the hardest thing I've ever had to live through," she revealed with tears beginning to swell.

"She was the Facebook queen," said Stephanie Montiveros, another friend of Marcela's who was there to decorate and light candles. "She always smiled. She was so compassionate. She would be nice to you even if she didn't know you. She was the total package," she added.

For Enriquez the loss of her friend has not weakened her special bond to the Francos. "They're family. Both of us [including Montiveros] are close to them. Whatever they need, they can always call us," she said.

Carlos' widow Ramona Franco and Margaret Quinonez, sister to Ramona and a trustee at SMC, was there as well. Quinonez shared how the memorial by the parking lot is refurbished constantly to keep the flame of their memory glowing. "The most powerful memory that remains is how much they loved each other as a family," she said. "They were always close. We hold on to those memories."

Quinonez shared how Cal State Dominguez Hills granted Marcela a posthumous honorary degree in Psychology. "The family got to go there and accept her degree," she said.

But Quinonez also added that one key lesson the family believes should be taken from the June 7 rampage is the necessity to heavily regulate the access individuals have to ammunition. "We hope students at Santa Monica College can start an initiative for more regulations of ammunition. When someone is being delivered 1,500 bullets, there has to be a pop up somewhere," she said.

"It has to come from the students from this campus. It would be much more powerful if it came from them. They were the ones who were also attacked. Their school was invaded. That whole campus was assaulted," she added.