March 5 marks the ten-year anniversary of the shooting at Santana High School, and a private memorial service on campus sparked some controversy, that's now settling down.
Zach Cabading, president of the Peace Council, which is organizing Friday's private memorial, sent an open letter to on Thursday, first published on Sign On San Diego, defending and explaining the reasons for keeping the memorial free from the public and media gaze.
In the letter Cabading said "the media circus that ensued only added to the stress and misery of the situation." He added, "I am positive that only one who is very accustomed to public attention would appreciate flashing cameras and staring onlookers as I stood in memorial of one of the most terrible days of my life."
Mayor Randy Voepel replied with a letter to Cabading on Thursday afternoon, agreeing with the president's points about privacy.
"I agree with and support the Peace Council’s decision to keep the March 5 ten-year School memorial private. I also understand your aversion to "media circuses,'" Voepel wrote.
He said he felt left out by not being invited, and that many in the city probably feel that way, because so many in town came out in support.
"The whole Santee community, churches, companies and many individuals donated money time or products to your school and those affected," he wrote. "I am a that has honoring our fallen, embedded in my DNA."
The Mayor announced earlier in the week that in light of no formal public memorial being set up, that he would be at the, laying flowers and saying a prayer, and all are invited to join him.
"I am simply going to do what I have always done and anyone that wants to meet at high noon March 5 to offer our love and caring is welcome," Voepel wrote.
"We embrace the Mayor’s proposal of a public ceremony, but we shall hold ours private for the better welfare of those that were more directly affected by the shooting," wrote Cabading.
Full letter from Zach Cabading, president of the Santana High School Peace Council:
Greetings Mayor Voepel,
On March 5, 2001, a terrible incident that occurred at our school did indeed shock and devastate our student body and the Santee community. We here at Santana High School have heard your comments regarding our decision to keep our 10th Anniversary Ceremony private, and we apologize if our decision did not meet your hopes for what you think the Ceremony should be. As the President of Santana’s Peace Council, the school group that has taken up the responsibility of holding a memorial for the upcoming tenth anniversary, I wish to offer you our reasoning as to why we chose to keep our Ceremony undisclosed to the public eye.
I think that both you and I can agree that when the shooting occurred on March 5th, the media circus that ensued only added to the stress and misery of the situation. Quite frankly, I do not believe that if I were searching for my children or spouse among crowds of shocked and panicked individuals, I would appreciate a reporter or photographer documenting my distress. This situation applies to the 10th Anniversary of the shooting. I am positive that only one who is very accustomed to public attention would appreciate flashing cameras and staring onlookers as I stood in memorial of one of the most terrible days of my life.
I believe, same as you, that people who are lost should be memorialized, but I do not believe that they should be honored for the sake of some publicity photographs, or for a filler on the evening news. We believe that the family and friends of the victims would take a similar stance. We understand that there are many in our community that would like to pay their respects, but we wish to avoid the media circus that would surround a public ceremony. May we add that the City of Santee had never announced plans or any sort of collaboration with Santana High School until the Mayor received word that he was not invited to our Ceremony. We embrace the Mayor’s proposal of a public ceremony, but we shall hold ours private for the better welfare of those that were more directly affected by the shooting.
I have personally witnessed the difficulties of the shooting, as my brother attended Santana High School during the time of it. We apologize, Mr. Voepel, that you were not invited to this event, but it is important to remember that while the shooting’s effects branched far into the hearts of the community, it was the students, faculty, and victims (and families of these victims) of our student body that undoubtedly suffered the most. Our decision was not because of personal distaste for you. We welcome the idea of a community memorial, but we would prefer if our school’s was private. Whether the public agrees or disagrees with our decision, we whole-heartedly believe that our choice for a private memorial was in the best, genuine interest of our school community, which ranges from freshman to alumni, and students to their families.
On behalf of the Santana High School Peace Council,
President, Peace Council
Santana High School
Reply from Mayor Randy Voepel:
TO: Mr. Zach Cabading
President, Peace Council
Santana High School
Dear Mr. President,
This missive is in response to your open letter.
I agree with and support the Peace Council’s decision to keep the March 5 ten year School memorial private. I also understand your aversion to “media circuses”. Please understand that I am a passionate supporter of Santana and your District. When I was not invited to the Ceremony you are having, I felt like a father that was not invited to his own families’ event. Mayors are like that sometimes.
Any one that knows me personally knows the depth and force of my commitment to our Community. Ten years ago I gave my all for The GUHSD, Randy Gordon, Brian Zuckor families, anyone involved in this tragedy. The whole Santee Community, Churches, Companies and many individuals donated money time or products to your school and those affected.
Santana is part of the Santee family and like any family we share good times and bad times. It is important to some of us to meet, remember, pray and honor the memories of our two angels Randy Gordon, Bryan Zuckor and the families that were torn up by this shooting.
I have been putting flowers every March 5 at the Santana sign and saying a prayer for the last nine years. Other than my wife, I doubt if no one knew. I am simply going to do what I have always done and anyone that wants to meet at high noon March 5 to offer our love and caring is welcome.
I am especially thankful for our brave Deputy Sheriff’s and Firefighter Paramedics who did their duty that day 10 years ago with no hesitation in risking their lives to end the shooting, we will remember and honor them as well.
Mr. President, I am a Vietnam combat veteran that has honoring our fallen, imbedded in my DNA. Please understand that my initial reaction to no public memorial was very normal for a leader such as me. Also, so you know, Michael Gordon, Randy’s brother will be having a gathering of friends and family at 0900 on March 5, others may gather at the Santana sign at various times. These gatherings are also a form of closure for some of us as well.
Mayor, City of Santee