Stung themselves by the loss, Monterey Park leaders center their efforts on community healing

Stung themselves by the loss, Monterey Park leaders center their efforts on community healing

Two days after 42 shots were fired in a Monterey Park dance center, the aggrieved city awaits more details. Why were the lives of 11 elders — including My Nhan, 65, and Lilan Li, 64, both identified by authorities Monday — suddenly, brutally taken?

In the wake of the tragedy, Monterey Park leaders have focused their efforts on ensuring public safety and providing resources for healing. Working with state and federal agencies, the city transformed the Langley Senior Citizen Center on Emerson Avenue into a crisis response center. The city will also host a Jan. 24 vigil at 5: 30 p.m. at City Hall.

Mayor Henry Lo said the loss of life is “heartbreaking.” On Jan. 22, while he worked deep into the night alongside investigators, Lo’s 86-year-old mother waited at home to share their Lunar New Year meal.

It wasn’t until 10 p.m. that he could join her.

While gathered at the table, he said the lost lives struck him on the deepest level.

“While I was sitting there it really hit me,” he said. “The fact that its so joyous to have something that is really important to us — the Lunar New Year, the first meal of the year —  with my mother. I realize for the families of those victims they well never ever have that experience again.”

Thomas Wong, councilmember for District 1, where Star Dance is located, said that he, like many others, is still consumed by shock and fear after the  senseless act of violence.

As the investigation continues, Wong is hopeful that more answers — and time — can bring peace to his neighbors.

“I think it’s gonna be a long period of both mourning and grieving together and a long road to recovery, whatever that is,” Wong said. “The scars are going to be here in our community for a very long time.”

Wong added: “And this is something that I think will will shape what our community looks like and what it is for years and years to come. (I am) hoping with my other leaders in the city and in our region to bring the community together to like find healing and to have some of that space to be able to talk to each other and to talk about what our needs are.”

When he returns to his classroom on Tuesday, Jose Sanchez said he already knows he’ll be addressing the weekend’s violence with his students.

Sanchez, Monterey Park’s mayor pro tem and a teacher at Alhambra High School, said all last week he taught his classes about the cultural significance of the Lunar New Year.

He’s sure some of his students had already been to some Lunar New Year events on Garvey Avenue, or would have attended Sunday. Whether his students are aware of Saturday’s violence or not, they’ll know something is wrong because of the canceled festival.

“We hadn’t had a Lunar New Year’s festival in three years,” he said. “And then this happened.”

Sanchez spoke outside the Langley Center, where the city was providing services for victims and their family members.

He spoke haltingly about how many students would be coping with the sudden violence in their community.

“I’m very emotional about this,” he said, choking up.

“I live here. I have three daughters who go to school here.”

Reporter Brian Rokos, Josh Cain, Scott Schwebke, Mona Darwish and Chris Haire contributed to this report, as well as City News Service.