I didn’t know him. I never met him. But I was there the night Richard Juarez was killed. The sea of red and blue lights was cutting through the fog in an eerie way that is both enchanting, like being on a dance floor in high school, and scary in that you know that something terrible has happened.
It was an odd night, foggy, but slightly warm at the same time. Virginia Avenue Park was very quiet as the groups of people talked in the hushed tones of those who are in shock, and scared. On the north side of the park were the older neighbors, the people who are parents of teens, and are anxious to know what happened, and why.
On the south side were the youngsters. The kids from the teen center, some counselor types, and a few of the neighbors. There was a burly black teen who could barely contain his pain, and as his Hispanic friend came up to him, they hugged. I saw tears in their eyes as they tried to blot out the horror of the night. I thought to myself how touching to see these two men of different races share their joint pain. I wonder why it takes loss to see love.
No one has any information, only questions. The worry is that it is a gang-related shooting. The fear of it surrounds and permeates like the fog.
As I make my way around the park the next morning, the police are still there, fewer of them, but still they are working. One man is cleaning up. From behind the yellow tape line, I see his bright blue latex gloves, and note the brush in his hand. I know what he is cleaning up. It makes me feel sick.
I feel for the family that must be in terrible pain right now.
My thoughts are all over the place. I don’t understand why things like this happen. So many lives are shattered. For what possible gain? Four lives ruined, four families traumatized — all for nothing.
The violence seems so out of place to me. I am in that park twice a day, or more. I see the groups of young men and women who hang out there. I watch the young interracial couples, and think, “we’re making progress,” people are getting along better. There’s less racial tension. Blacks date Hispanics, whites date Asians, and all the combinations you can come up with. We’re getting to be the multi-cultural melting pot that we’ve claimed to be for hundreds of years. Then this happens.
The day after the shooting, I walked past his picture, I stare at the roses and mums that surround it. There are people preparing for a memorial. Two young boys, who are barely 14 years old, are curious about the macabre site, it holds their fascination for a moment, then they are off to go play. They have no sense of the size of the loss that has happened. Young girls cling to each other as they try to make sense of it all. Orange butcher paper is set out for people to write their condolences, wishes and pain.
Two days later and a scrap of yellow police tape remains on a pipe next to the children’s playroom. It seems an odd reminder to me of the furious activity from just a few nights prior. Like a fading echo, it is a faint reminder of what happened. I’m shocked at how quickly everything returns to normal, yet this piece of plastic reminds me that for some families, life will never be normal again.
The aroma from the burning candles wafts through the cool morning air. Wilting flowers pay tribute to the love he experienced. Wax from the candlelight vigil cakes the ground, reminding me of the tears that were shed at the loss of a young man’s life.
As I make my way through the park, I watch as a couple of teens do that teenage dance, they are incapable of keeping their hands off of each other, yet they try to establish the boundaries of relationships. The boy always pushing for more, as the girl practices being coquettish.
Life goes on. It feels strange. The dissonance for me of being so close to a place where such horror occurred, and then a few steps away, the freshness of new young love and lust.
I don’t know if there’s a point to all this. They are just the thoughts I have as I walk my dog and wonder why.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.