“I heard a succession of loud noises. It was like ‘bang bang,'” Sam said. “I thought it sounded like gunshots, but we were just passing Garfield so I thought those must be firecrackers, there is no way this [is] happening.”
Moments later she got a phone call from her friend telling her to stay away from the area.
“Everybody was at home just fearful,” Sam said.
The gunfire was coming from the Star Ballroom Dance Studio and among the 11 people killed was the studio’s manager Ming Wei Ma, affectionately known as Mr. Ma.
“He was one of the most unique people,” said Kristina Hayes, from the Star Ballroom Dance Studio. “I would have an interaction with him and he would just make me smile.”
Hayes hosts events at Star Ballroom and worked closely with Ma.
“He was the life force of Star Ballroom. He did everything for Star,” Hayes said.
Hayes said Ma was a great dance teacher who used to dance competitively and beyond that had a zest for life that was infectious.
“Every time I would see him he would tell me he loved me,” Hayes said. “He didn’t speak a lot of English and I don’t speak Chinese, but yet there was never a problem with language.”
Many in the community say they knew Ma and the people at the dance studio.
“I know these people,” said Hannah Koi Prado, a resident of Monterey Park. “I’ve seen them, we are like a family.”
Now they wait for more names and pictures of the victims to be released wondering who else they might know.
“I really think that some of these victims were my mother’s friends,” said Constance Chang, a Monterey Park resident.
Monterey Park is grief-stricken and broken while they are still trying to process how their little community was the scene of so much violence.
“Mass shootings do not discriminate it happens everywhere now so it’s happening in my hometown where I least expect it,” Chang said.