Gilroy Strong: Healing continues one year after mass shooting

GILROY, Calif. (KGO) -- All over Christmas Hill Park, home to the beloved Gilroy Garlic festival, banners, plaques, memorials tell the story of a community that is resilient but still healing.

Tuesday morning, the Mayor of Gilroy raised a flag with the slogan that now defines his community: Gilroy Strong.

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He was surrounded by first responders and leaders of the community.

"When Gilroy was in crisis everyone showed up," said Pastor Greg Quirke, from the South Valley Community Church.

The Tuesday memorial at the park was limited because of the pandemic, but streamed online.

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Gilroy city leaders gathered at the site of the mass shooting to honor the three victims who were fatally shot by a 19-year-old gunman one year ago.

"This flag represents our collective spirit and to rise above senseless acts of violence," said Mayor Roland Velasco.

July 28, 2019, just before 6 p.m. on the last day of the 41st year of the beloved festival, chaos broke out, when 19-year old Santino William Legan opened fire into the crowd.

In a shooting spree that lasted mere minutes, 13-year-old Keyla Salazar, 6-year-old Stephen Romero and 25-year-old Trevor Irby were killed, dozens more injured. The gunman was shot by police, before killing himself.

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"We continue to pray for the Romero Salazar and Irby family," said Pastor Quirke, "We will not forget the loss but we will let their memory be actually a resolve for us to be better than we ever were."

That's how Hannah Johnson feels, grateful to be alive. She was a vendor at the festival and ended up hiding for nearly two hours in a trailer, waiting for safety.

"This is the one that was with me last year, she was just under a year and I remember thinking will she make it to her first birthday," she said holding her daughter.

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Johnson heard the shots loud and clear, shots that would haunt her for many months after, even her daughters had nightmares.

"Every single noise would trigger just memories and smells would trigger memories and I actually went to one of the centers and talked to someone two or three times," added Johnson.

While Gilroy's downtown continues to suffer because of the pandemic, there are signs everywhere of a community coming together, strong and resilient.

"In the aftermath of this terrible and tragic incident, our community came together, in solidarity and I support everyone who suffered and experienced loss that tragic day," said Mayor Velasco.

And in a show of even more solidarity, so far, $1.9 million has been raised for a Garlic Festival victim's fund.
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