GILROY (KPIX) – Survivors and loved ones gathered for solemn ceremonies in Gilroy Tuesday morning, to mark the one year anniversary of the Garlic Festival mass shooting that left 4 dead and 17 wounded.
“Today we raise the Gilroy Strong flag to represent the strength and resilience each and every one of you has shown this last year,” said Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco.
“This flag represents our collective spirit and desire to rise above senseless acts of violence,” he said.
Just days after the shooting, Gilroy silk screener Jorge Roacho started putting “#GilroyStrong” on T-shirts.
“I feel pretty privileged that we were able to do that. I think within the first few days we raised over $10,000,” Roacho said.
Overall, Gilroy raised a reported $1.9 million for victims of the shooting. Ongoing T-shirt sales are also raising money to support survivors with mental health issues.
“There are a lot of people who were at the festival or were nearby with PTSD who didn’t realize they were affected until six months or a year later,” said Alex Larson, owner of the Garlic Shoppe.
It would be easy for some towns to turn the page and move on, but not here. Most shops in the downtown area still display some sign of support.
One realty office still displays the photos of the three fatal victims next to flowers and candles: 25-year-old Trevor Irby, 13-year-old Kayla Salazar, and 6-year-old Stephen Romero.
“I just want them to know that I’m praying for them and all the people affected by it,” said Jesse Rodriguez, who works in the office.
For residents, Gilroy Strong means the community plans to come back with the Garlic Festival next year and beyond.
“We can’t wait for 2021, so the festival can come back and we can do it again,” Roacho said.
A remembrance ceremony Tuesday afternoon brought together first responders at the scene of the shooting, Christmas Hill Park.
The 19-year-old gunman who cut through a fence and opened fire into the crowd with an assault rifle committed suicide after he was confronted by Gilroy police officers who engaged in a short gun battle with him.