July 14, 2006

It’s been 22 years since that tragic day

On July 18 is another anniversary of the San Ysidro massacre in 1984.

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

Today Omarr Alonso would’ve been a 33 year-old man. But his mother, Doña Adelina Hernández, remembers him as the 11-year-old brown haired boy that had many friends. When she thinks about him, she thinks about her son’s good humor and the harmony he used to transmit.

Adelina’s memories go back further than the tragic afternoon of July 18, 1984, when a man shot and killed 21 people in a McDonald’s in San Ysidro.

Omarr, or ‘Mis Amores,’ as Doña Adelina used to call him, was one of the children who died in the massacre.

“I remember him from that day backwards: His birth, at school, when he was little,” said 75-year-old Adelina. “Omarr was a very social boy. With that boy my husband and I were like newlyweds again. They were 11 great years. We used to have a good time. If happiness exists in this life, my husband and I lived it with the arrival of that boy.”

The boy’s life was truncated when, together with two friends, they went to a donut shop near a McDonald’s where James Huberty, a depressed, unemployed man, shot and killed 21 people and injured 19, almost all of them of Mexican origin. The shooting lasted more than an hour, until police snipers killed Huberty.

In 1988, as a tribute to the massacre’s victims, Southwestern College opened an educational center in the place of the tragedy. Outside there’s a monument, made up of 21 pillars, that represent each of the killed people in that place.

This Tuesday, July 18, 2006, is the 22nd. anniversary of the tragedy that shocked the San Ysidro community, and mutilated the life of Adelina and her family.

“It took me a long time to overcome the loss of Mis Amores,” said Adelina, who was born in the State of Guanajuato. “It was something really different. For me, for my husband Fernando, and for the whole family it changed our life forever.”

The tragic event also affected the San Ysidro community, because back then it was smaller and neighbors knew each other, said Joe Serrano, a long-time San Ysidro resident.

“For many years there was fear among people,” he said. “As soon as you looked at the McDonald’s building, you would remember the tragedy.”

Serrano wrote and recorded the corrido La masacre de San Ysidro as a tribute to the victims.

Without a doubt, everything can change in an instant. That’s exactly what happened to the Hernandez family.

July 18 was the birthday of Adelina’s oldest son, Fernando. That afternoon the family was going to celebrate in Fernando’s home in Tijuana.

“My daughter-in-law had prepared dinner. We never made it to the party,” Adelina said.

Adelina, with tears in her eyes but with a firm voice, recalls the minutes before learning that Omarr had been killed.

“Everything was confusion: Some people were saying someone had robbed the bank, others were saying that a store. Everybody was on San Ysidro Blvd, trying to find out what had happened. I went looking for Omarr because we had to leave for his brother’s dinner. But then I heard some kids screaming: ‘It’s Omarr! It’s Omarr!’ I started looking for my son, when I turned and there he was, laying on the floor, next to his bicycle. It was an image I will never forget. I felt the world falling on me.”

After Omarr’s death, Adelina fell on a terrible depression. Little by little, she began to focus on the good moments she had spent with her son. Also, she continued working as a teacher’s aid at Sunset Elementary, the school from where Omarr had graduated a few weeks before his death.

It was at that school where Adelina began to find peace and resignation.

“My medication were the children. I found refuge in my work with children. In each one of them I saw Mis Amores. Every school year there’s a boy that reminds me of my son,” said Adelina, whom is called Abuelita by students at Sunset.

The rest of the family also felt the burden of the tragedy.

“My husband spent many years without being able to talk about this. Edgar, my other son, and Omarr were very close. Edgar was 18 and he watched everything on television. Until today, he’s not able to go into a hamburger restaurant,” said Adelina, who gave birth to Omarr when she was 42.

And although Huberty’s wife told the police that day, before leaving his apartment, her husband had said, “I’m going to hunt humans,” Adelina said that she doesn’t hate the murderer of Omarr.

“I’ve never felt hatred for that man,” she said. “I only ask God to forgive him. The man took our little piece of heaven from us, but I think that if I do good, one day I’m going to reunite with my boy.”

After 22 years, Adelina and her family have kept Omarr’s spirit alive.

“Everyday I know that my son is with us. We always have him in our minds,” she said.

A tribute to those who died...
* Elsa Herlinda Borboa-Firro
* Neva Denise Cane
* Michelle Deanne Carncross
* María Elena Colmenero Silva
* David Flores Delgado
* Gloria López González
* Omarr Alonso Hernández
* Blythe Regan Herrera
* Matao Herrera
* Paulina Aquino López
* Margarita Padilla
* Claudia Pérez
* Rubén Lozano Pérez
* Carlos Reyes
* Victor M. Rivera
* Arisdelsi Vuelvas Vargas
* Hugo Luis Velazquez Vargas
* Aida Velazquez Vazquez
* Laurence Herman Versluis
* Miguel Victoria Ulloa
* Jackie Lynn Dominguez Wright

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