The tragedy in Las Vegas last Sunday occurred almost 300 miles from Manhattan Beach, but on Wednesday night it came painfully back home as hundreds of people gathered at the Manhattan Beach Pier to honor the lives of two public servants killed in the shooting.
Joined by family and friends of Rachael Parker, 33, and Sandy Casey, 35, people were seen crying and hugging one another among the crowd that filtered up Manhattan Beach Boulevard and along The Strand. After the sun set over the horizon, individuals raised candles and cell phone lights in a moving tribute.
Parker was remembered as the face of the Manhattan Beach Police Department. As a records technician she was often the first person visitors encountered behind the front desk. On Thursday, Parker would have celebrated her 10-year anniversary with the department, said Chief Eve Irvine.
“She had such a soft spot for all people,” Irvine said. “Her bright and shining star will always be lit in our police department.”
Friends and colleagues shared messages about Casey, 35, a special education teacher at Manhattan Beach Middle School, read to the audience by Superintendent Mike Matthews.
“Sandy was that person who everybody wanted to be around, she was always joking and having fun,” wrote one of Casey's colleagues. “Her dedication to her work and students was unrivaled.”
“I remember being with Sandy, laughing loving and caring,” wrote another. “She was a relentless advocate for her students and colleagues.”
From Casey's fiance Chris Willemse, he urged people not to be angry.
“Show compassion over hate,” he wrote. “Remember that Sandy was a gentle soul with a big heart and she would ask all of us to celebrate her by remembering all the wonderful times that her loved ones, her friends, her colleagues and her students shared with her.”
For members of the community such as Laura Nosler and her daughter Taylor, the candlight vigil was an emtional experience. Laura Nosler said she was planned to attend the concert with friends from out of town, but sold the tickets about five days prior because of an illness.
“It just makes you feel so empty,” she said. “It was nice to see the love tonight.”
L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn said she came to the memorial service on Wednesday to show her support for the community. At least 15 people from LA County were killed in the shooting, including Torrance resident Christiana Duarte and Lomita resident Lisa Patterson.
“It's just amazing to me that a tragedy that happened in Las Vegas was connected right here at home,” Hahn said. “It just goes to show we are all connected and we are one big family and there are times when we just have to come together and cry together.”
If you would like to contribute to the families of either victim, a memorial fund for Casey has been set up through a GoFundMe account and for Parker a paypal account has been arranged by the Manhattan Beach Police Association.