By Chris Epting
12:33 PM PDT, October 9, 2012
It's hard to believe that this Friday marks one year. Do you remember where you were when you heard? I was driving back from Los Angeles, on my way to a vigil outside the home of beloved Ocean View High School coach Jim Harris, who would soon die from cancer.
My column that next week began with, "The mercury pushed up near 100 degrees throughout the region, the sort of strange, unseasonably arid kind of day that will prompt at least a few to start wondering about 'earthquake weather.' It was a summer day that didn't happen all summer, and the odd, almost-eerie stillness that comes with such an afternoon was obliterated about 1:30 when a gunman in Seal Beach opened fire, killing eight innocent people (and injuring a ninth)."
Do you remember what you were doing the day a madman named Scott Dekraai allegedly slaughtered those innocent people at the hair salon in Seal Beach, the worst massacre in Orange County history?
Forty-seven-year-old Paul Wilson remembers all too well what he was doing. He had gotten his haircut at the salon, where his wife Christy worked, just two hours before the killings began. Then he was at work in Commerce, where he runs a clothing manufacturing company. He received a phone call from his daughter saying she saw police cars and helicopters near the salon. Then he got another call from Gordon, the guy who had cut his hair, telling him he had to get back to the salon. Wilson told Gordon to tell him that Christy was OK. Gordon said he could not do that, and hung up.
Racing wildly down the 605 toward Seal Beach, blinkers flashing, Wilson next received a call from his mother. He pulled over. She told him there had been a shooting, but that she thought Christy was OK.
Somewhat relieved, Wilson continued on to the salon. But when he arrived, he saw his wife's car in the parking lot, and his heart sank. He knew something was wrong. A Long Beach police officer, a family friend, walked Wilson to a nearby church that had become a makeshift grief center for family members. That's when he got the news that his wife of 24 years had been taken from him and their three children. Christy had been getting her hair washed by Michelle Fournier, the ex-wife of the shooter, and she was the second person to get shot after Fournier.
Talking with Wilson today puts the event in a new, chilling perspective. But it also reminds us that while we, the public, have returned to our collective routine, every day is still a living hell for the family members of victims.
Paul and Christy raised three kids together, who today are 23, 21 and 18 years old. That day, one year ago, is when Wilson had to break the news to his kids that their mom was never coming home again.
"Christy was the love of my life," he told me. "We were together 26 years, my entire adult life, and there was not a day we didn't speak to each other. I travel for work, and she took care of everything with our kids. She held down the fort. She kept track of everything. She spent so much wonderful time with our kids. Her shoes cannot be filled. So my last year has been spent trying to make sense of that and be here for my kids."
But it's also been spent trying to prevent a catastrophe like this from happening again, as well as protecting the rights of the victims when madness occurs.
Wilson has started working toward changing legislation regarding gun safety and victim's rights. While he stresses that he completely respects the laws of gun owners, in extreme custody cases he thinks more needs to be done (and I think it's hard not to agree with him). He has been working on a two-part proposed law, called Christy's Law, which is gaining attention through an online petition.
It proposes prohibiting the purchase or possession of firearms while engaged in dissolution/child custody disputes and also would require the surrender of existing firearms by parties engaged in dissolution/child custody disputes. In addition, Christy's Law proposes new victim's rights legislation that would basically require defendants seeking a stay in a civil lawsuit to file a declaration of wealth, so they don't have the opportunity to "hide" their assets.
It would also enable a defendant to testify in a civil case and still remain silent in the criminal case without prejudice. This will ensure that victims of violent crimes can still pursue a civil suit against the defendant without having to wait until the criminal trial that could take years, especially in the case where the defendant is known to possess sizable wealth that could be hidden away or spent in the process.
In addition to Wilson's efforts to change legislation, he is forming the Christy Lynn Wilson Foundation and will use the foundation as a platform to work with other advocates and organizations in protecting citizens from further gun violence. He has also coordinated a golf tournament fundraiser for Nov. 19 to raise funds for the foundation. Lastly, he has set up an online petition to gain public support for Christy's Law: http://www.change.org/petitions/support-christy-s-law.
Wilson told me doing all of this keeps him sane because he's still fighting in the name of the love of his life. As we remember the victims of the salon shooting this week, may his profound efforts also become part of the legacy of this tragedy; something positive from the horror that erupted one year ago. I hope you will support him.
Also, there will be a candlelight vigil Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Eisenhower Park in Seal Beach, where many are expected to gather to pay their respects to the victims.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 19 books, including the new "Baseball in Orange County" from Arcadia Publishing. You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at http://www.facebook.com/hbindependent.