These were tears of joy.
A close-knit crowd gathered Saturday for the Seal Beach wedding of Tammy Hetzel and Doug Childers. He was the fearless bystander who confronted the Salon Meritage shooter and treated the victims, and she was a former Salon Meritage stylist. They met at the funeral for shooting victim Laura Webb Elody.
Framed by the Seal Beach pier, the couple exchanged their vows in front of friends and family. As with Childers and Hetzel, many in the crowd shared a bond born in tragedy but strengthened by love.
“We’re just delighted to be here to share this with them ― they are special to us,” said Webb Elody’s mother Hattie Stretz, the only shooting victim to survive the attack.
“It’s a good thing that came out of the tragedy,” added her husband Tom Stretz.
Standing by Childers’ side, bestman, Rooney Daschbach, too, lost a loved one in the Oct. 12 tragedy. His sister, Michele Fast, was among the eight who died that day.
Also in attendance was John Gallegos, who was working with Childers at a nearby construction site on the day of the shooting. They and three co-workers ran toward the gunfire to treat the victims and guide police toward the shooter as he drove away.
“It’s like life has come full-circle. There is good even in the face of tragedy,” said Gallegos, a Lake Forest resident who flew in from a job in Texas for the ceremony. “Doug has been my friend for years, and it is great to see him happy with someone who is going to make his life even happier.”
The couple exchanged their vows on the beach near First Street in a simple ceremony by SeaCoast Grace Church Rev. Bryan Hardwick. A friend sang their song, a Rhianna song with the refrain, “We found love in a hopeless place.”
Others who survived the attack, and lost loved ones also celebrated Saturday along with Seal Beach residents touched by the tragedy and the tale of love.
“This community has given us so much, and everybody has been so supportive,” said Childers. “It felt incredible to share our day with them.”