Say Their Names: The California Shootings


A shooting at the Star Dance Studio on Jan. 24 in Monterey Park, CA, left 11 people dead and nine injured. The studio is a local favorite for its dance classes and parties. During a Lunar New Year celebration, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran arrived at the studio armed with a modified M11 pistol and opened fire. Following the incident, Tran drove to Lai Lai Ballroom in the city of Alhambra to attempt to open fire there. Luckily, Brandon Tsay, a third-generation studio worker in Lai Lai, heard the scuffle. Knowing what could be the outcome for everyone involved, he intervened. While fighting against Tran, Tsay quickly disarmed him within 40 dangerous seconds. 

Arcadia was struck with grief upon hearing what happened. Families watched the whole thing unfold over their Lunar New Year’s feasts in the hours following the shooting. Students checked in on their friends and family to reassure themselves that everyone they knew was safe. The entire community was shaken by a shooting so close to home—Monterey Park is less than 10 miles away. Although many of us have seen the aftermath of these mass shootings on the news, none of us would have predicted that one so devastating and tragic would occur in a city Arcadians frequent for work or fun. 

Junior Michael Hum, a Quill staff writer and article contributor, left the festival in Monterey Park minutes before the shooting happened. 

“I was there to visit my grandparents. It was surreal…to say the least. I was leaving what was an enjoyable festival. Everyone was having a great time, taking pictures, and laughing all night. I left at about 10:15 pm and was in a car when suddenly, police cars raced past us. And then helicopters arrived…then stayed for almost a day. I didn’t realize what happened until I overheard the loudspeakers, minutes later. I could hear that they were looking for a rogue gunman, which was horrifying for me at the time. I got a notification at 2:30 am: ‘Shooting in Monterey Park, CA, ten dead and ten injured.’ I was speechless.

“I never expected that there would be a shooting this early in the year, let alone in the city and time I was in. It was revealing to witness the futility of gun control laws and experience the psychological outcome of a mass shooting, personally and communally. What was supposed to be another continuation of a fun festival the next morning was a national day of mourning. It was a forceful wake-up call for a guy who had only seen mass shootings on television.”

The following Monday, students of Arcadia High School (AHS) were addressed by an informed staff of teachers. Several teachers encouraged students to take their time, process the lives lost, and speak up about their thoughts, informing them that the irony of bloodshed at what was supposed to be a celebration of good fortune was not lost on them. For many students, having personal connections to Monterey Park made the shooting even more disturbing.

“It’s very surreal that I was there minutes before the shooting,” said junior Stella Luong, whose mother used to take classes at Star Dance Studio and also left the festival minutes before the shooting began.

 “It was a day of celebration and joy with my sister and me…to even think of such an event was unimaginable. Not only does my family visit around Monterey Park regularly, but my mom and I have also been to both dance studios. 

“To have a tragic event occur close to our home and somewhere that fits into our daily routine is terrifying. It made me think of how lucky I was to leave at the right time. Especially around the new year, it made me think of how protected I was by my ancestors. It’s what I believe in, but all I can thank is fate and how grateful [I am] to be safe and healthy,” Luong said.

The fact that this shooting occurred in Monterey Park is frightening and alarming for the local residents. Over the past decade, we have become numb to hearing about a shooting in the news. It has become difficult to fathom what a shooting means. The lives of multiple people instantly being ended by one troubled person, multiple times a month, is almost incomprehensible. But seeing it happen in our very own community, to 11 people we may have walked past, at a dance studio we have all driven by, breaks all of our hearts. This is a wake up call for the residents of San Gabriel Valley. If our leaders do not take action immediately, more communities across the country will continue to be broken and traumatized. 

Three days later, a second mass shooting occurred at Half Moon Bay in Northern California. The nation, still in mourning for the victims of Monterey Park, could do nothing but watch as a fresh wave of names was sent cycling through the news, knowing that behind every name was a person whom we may not have known—and will now never know—but whose last moments were stolen from them by a fellow human’s decision to pull the trigger.

If even California, the strictest state in regards to gun policy, has witnessed two mass shootings—shootings that killed four or more people—within 72 hours, what does that indicate for the rest of the country?  We have a gun epidemic. Preventative legislation has always been controversial, with people advocating bearing arms is a constitutional right. Bold statement, considering the amendment was written during the time of antiquated manual reloading, whereas nowadays, if aimed correctly, a modern gun can kill the same number of people as bullets in its magazine. Our indifference to gun violence worsens this, with the number of mass shootings exponentially increasing since 2018. Not including non-mass shootings, that’s 2,800 people dead from guns.

Gun control is not a blanket attempt to take away people’s rights, it is meant to protect Americans from mass shootings. When the whole nation is at risk of being caught in one, gun control is not voluntary. It’s a necessity. The faster gun control is enacted, the more lives saved. Without prompt action from legislatures, the best we can do to help is to mourn the lives lost.

If you want to help, below is the list of all the known funeral GoFundMe’s for Monterey Park victims and Half Moon Bay victims. This is the Monterey Park Lunar New Year Victims Fund, the Half Moon Bay Victims Fund, and Half Moon Bay Farmworker Shooting and Flood Victims Fund.

The six women killed in the Monterey Park shooting were Mymy Nhan, 65; Lilan Li, 63; Xiujuan Yu, 57; Muoi Dai Ung, 67; Hongying Jian, 62; and Dian (Diana) Man Ling Tom, 70. The five men are: Yu (Andy) Lun Kao, 72; Chia Ling Yau, 76; Valentino Marcos Alvero, 68; Wen Tau Yu, 64; and Ming Wei Ma, 72. 

The seven people killed in the Half Moon Bay shooting were Zhishen Liu, 73; Marciano Martinez Jimenez, 50; Aixiang Zhang, 74; Qizhong Cheng, 66; Yetao Bing, 43; Jingzhi Liu, 64; and Jose Romero Perez, 38. Jose’s brother, Pedro Romero Perez, is currently in critical condition. His age is unknown.

“As a reporter, I’ve covered tragedies, called coroner’s offices. I never imagined I’d [have] to do it for my chosen family, let alone for a mass shooting,” tweeted reporter Tiffany Liou, Mymy Nhan’s niece. Nhan was the first victim in the Monterey Park shooting, tragically lying in her partner’s arms as she took her last breath. For everyone wanting to familiarize themselves with the victims, Liou wrote an article detailing Nhan’s life story and her family’s reaction to her death.

On Jan. 24, Liou released a statement on behalf of The Nhan family on her Twitter: “If you knew her, you knew her warm smile and kindness was contagious. She was a loving aunt, sister, daughter, and friend. Mymy was our biggest cheerleader.” 

“There are always ‘what if’s,’” commented Liou in the article’s supplementary video. “What if she left the dance floor just a few minutes earlier? What if the family celebrated their Lunar New Year the day before? What if we stop the violence and mass shootings across the country?

On the GoFundMe for Yu Lun Kao’s funeral, her niece writes, “What was meant to be a night out celebrating the Lunar New Year with friends ended up being a devastating and life-changing event for my family.” Kao died on Sunday, leaving behind a grieving family. At the time of writing, 989 donors have raised $37,237 of the $30,000 goal.

As the living, we must carry these names in our hearts, heavy as they may be. Because even remembering their names isn’t enough; these people were not just the strings of letters that we know them by—they were parents, family members, coworkers, spouses, people. It’s nearly impossible to convey the weight of a life in writing—much less that of eighteen lives.

We don’t want another Half Moon Bay or Monterey Park. But guess what? It will happen. These two shootings are a testament to the inadequacy of our current methods for mitigating gun violence. You may think that beyond donating to the victims’ funeral funds and staying up to date on new developments, there’s not much you can do to help as an average citizen. But anyone can join a lawful protest, sign a petition, and take thirty seconds out of their day to say the victims’ names out loud, even if you didn’t know them. 

To every gun rights advocate, we urge you to do the same. What has allowing these weapons to be so easily abused led to in the end? If lax laws around guns makes our society safer, why do we have more gun shootings? They don’t. For our collective safety, we cannot allow lawmakers to let our gun policy remain as it is. So, put pen to paper. Pick up a protest sign. You can help eradicate gun violence in our country. You can remember those who we were too late to help. And while you’re at it, you can say their names. Let’s make it so there won’t be another one.


Photo courtesy of UNSPLASH.COM