Seal Beach City leaders voted to spend $30,000 to design a memorial at Eisenhower Park for the eight people killed in last year’s shooting at Salon Meritage.
While the details are yet to be finalized, the memorial will likely include seating and reflection area overlooking the ocean north of the pier.
At the request of the victim’s families, the city opted not to erect the memorial at or near the scene of the shooting. They also pushed back the unveiling ceremony for the memorial to some time next spring rather than on the one-year anniversary as originally planned.
“It’s nowhere I want to be on that day. I want to be somewhere with my family, and we really, really don’t want to be anywhere near the site of that day,” said Paul Wilson whose wife, Christy Wilson was killed at Salon Meritage.
Similarly, Paul Caouette, whose father David Caouette was shot outside the salon while sitting in his Range Rover in the parking lot, said he plans to be out of town on the day of the shooting to escape the images of the tragedy.
The city’s consideration meant a lot to the families who lost loved ones that day, they said after the City Council voted to fund the memorial project Monday night.
A citizen committee reviewed ideas for the memorial and narrowed down possible sites to the Electric Avenue Greenbelt or Eisenhower Park.
City Councilman Gordon Shanks expressed some concern about building the memorial so close to the pier.
“With all due respect to the relatives and to the survivors. I really don’t like seeing this down at Eisenhower Park. Mainly because it’s so close to the pier,” said Shanks. “To me, the pier should be a happy place where you go to have a good time.”
However, City Councilman Gary Miller argued in favor of the beach location.
“I think, personally, the ocean and the background give a lot of reverence to the site,” said Miller.
Family members of the victims agreed.
“My wife of 26-years was killed at the salon,” said Wilson. “One reason that she loved coming to Seal Beach to work every day was for the small-town vibe that Seal Beach has, for the pier, for the ocean And this park, this memorial wouldn’t mean anything to me and my family if it didn’t have the pier, and the ocean and the Seal Beach vibe to it. That being said, I think Eisenhower Park would be the only place that would be right ”
In the end, the City Council voted 5-0 to fund the project at Eisenhower Park. However, city officials still have to determine what the memorial will look like and how to capture the appropriate spirit for the memorial.
“The number one thing that I don’t want, and I heard the committee say the same thing. We don’t want to memorialize the shooting. We don’t want to memorialize Salon Meritage’s tragedy,” said City Councilwoman Ellery Deaton.
Mayor Michael Levitt expressed similar concerns.
“We don’t want to memorialize the shooting. We don’t. This is a memorial to the lives that were cut down…It’s a monument to the lives they lived and the families that have to go on without them,” he said.
However, it’s not realistic to try to completely separate the memorial from the tragedy of the mass murders, said Levitt.
“Eight people died at one time. They didn’t die separate deaths in separate places,” he said. “They died at one time in one location due to a shooting, and I think you are being impractical to try to separate what caused the deaths from the memorial.”
One way that the memorial could capture the right tone is to include an aspect of the lives of each individual who died that day, said Wilson.
For his wife, the memorial could reflect the love of two people and their three children, he said.
For David Caouette, a family man and off-roading adventurer, the memorial could include his favorite saying, ‘Take of Your Watch,’ a reminder to make time for the things that are important in life, said Paul Caouette, who where’s the quote on a bracelet in honor of his father.