I took our dog out at about 11 a.m. Sept. 30 for our usual walk around the block, including the street that runs parallel to ours. We passed a group of young male workers who were in the neighborhood to do some underground work on the electrical system.
The Humboldt Island neighborhood was without power for the day for a scheduled outage to allow the workers to do their job.
About an hour later, at home, I noticed a police helicopter hovering low and just above our house. Soon it was joined by another copter and then in the distance I heard sirens.
Shortly after that, my wife mentioned that a neighbor said there had been an accident. I walked back over to find that the street had been blocked off and within the seal-off perimeter was a frenzy of activity.
At the scene were several fire trucks and an ambulance, and the helicopters still hovered overhead. Many residents were in front of their houses craning their necks to see what was happening on one of the cul-de-sacs that feed off the main thoroughfare.
As you may have heard or read, a young man, Brandon Orozco from Whittier, was killed on this day, trapped in an underground electrical vault as it became energized and a fire engulfed it. His co-workers escaped to safety. The 28-year-old power line technician (and son of an electrician) never stood a chance.
Long into that night, there was an eerie stillness in the neighborhood. Power would not be restored until morning. Off in the darkness, investigators worked quietly until dawn.
I took a walk back to the area the next morning and it was as if nothing had happened. There were no people or trucks, no visible evidence of the tragedy that had occurred. Were it not for several candles on the nearest corner and a handful of flowers scattered on the manhole cover, you'd never have known the chaos that had occurred there not even 24 hours earlier.
Within a day, the makeshift memorial on the corner began to grow. Soon, there were several dozen candles accompanied by cards, photos and heartfelt notes to Orozco. As I write this, the memorial is still intact and it has continued to grow. But most likely in a few days it will be swept away, erasing any marker to reflect what happened there.
But that's just how it goes, I guess.
Maybe it's because I've written a lot of books about precise locations where things have taken place, but I'm never able to erase these physical sites from my memory. Whenever I see a makeshift memorial, I feel compelled to pull over and learn about the person involved in whatever took place there.
I've written that I would love Huntington Beach to have a more articulated historic marker program that would include not just major sites of historical significance, but also lesser-known places to reflect smaller but still meaningful events. And I think that sites like this have a place in that catalog — not to be morbid but rather to memorialize people like Orozco who lost his life simply doing his job.
Each day now, I go to the memorial around the corner and read the letters to Orozco, and a rich picture emerges of a good-natured and hard-working young man who seems to have had a lot of great friends and was certainly loved deeply by his family. As long as I live here, each day when I pass that site, I will think of what happened there and tell the story to anybody who is with me.
We cycle through news today at warp speed, and incidents such as these seem to be forgotten soon after they happen. So maybe someday there will be a way to include a simple marker near that manhole cover just to say, "A good man lost his life here. Please keep his family in your thoughts."
For the life of me, I can't see anything wrong with that idea, and so I'm going to add it to the list as I continue to work on this local marker program. Having a city become a physical mirror of events can only help educate while preserving and illuminating our history, the good and the tragic.
If you have a site like this in your neighborhood, please feel free to send me information about it so that I might include it on the list.
In the meantime, thoughts and prayers to the Orozco family.
Remembering Dane Williams
On the subject of good young men losing their lives, I'd like to let you know that on Oct. 26, the family of Dane Williams will be having their annual Memorial Surf Festival in his honor. Williams was tragically taken from this world in 2008. Since then, his incredible family here in Huntington Beach has worked long and hard to not just preserve his memory but also to create awareness about the monstrous danger of sexual predators. You can find out more about the event by visiting DaneWilliams.org.
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.