Monterey Park residents say they are in shock and denial after the shooting : NPR

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People stand at a makeshift memorial near the scene of the shooting.

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Mario Tama/Getty Images

People stand at a makeshift memorial near the scene of the shooting.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

As early Sunday evening settled in, members of the Monterey Park, Calif., community came and went near the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, crying and trying to process what had happened the night before.

Police tape, barricades and memorials of candles, flowers and handwritten notes offered a somber mood on what was supposed to be a day of celebration for the Lunar New Year.

The residents had come to mourn the mass shooting that left 11 people dead and many others injured.

“I was still out enjoying the festivities, eating good food, watching… the plays, the lights, the fireworks, everything that was happening that they had programmed because it was a three-day event ,” Monterey Park resident. Yang Zuo, 34, said about what should have happened on Sunday.

Instead, Zuo was visiting the intersection near the dance studio with his daughter, the two of them holding hands, as he spoke to NPR about how the attack was affecting the community that over 65% Asian.

“In the Chinese community, I don’t think we’ve ever encountered anything of this magnitude,” Zuo said.

When he heard the news for the first time, he said he was “jaw on the floor” in shock.

“Because this is a very conservative community where everyone is, for the most part, over 40,” he said.

“Everybody minds their own business. They’re just here to make an honest living. The dance studio is behind the Bank of America that everybody goes to, it’s also right next to the sheriff’s station . So this is a very safe neighborhood.”

The impact of the shooting will reach the global ballroom dance community

Nearby, Adam Jona, a ballroom dance instructor at the studio, said he was still reeling from what had happened less than 24 hours earlier.

Jona said he was supposed to be teaching at Star Ballroom on Saturday night, but last minute scheduling changes caused his class to be cancelled. He said that while the majority of the studio’s patrons were older or retired Asian Americans who came for recreational classes, the shooting had an impact on the global ballroom dance community.

“A very famous and highly acclaimed dance coach[es] come here and give classes and private lessons and prepare before showcases,” said Jona. “So it not only affects this community but a much larger dance community as well.”

Before the shooting, Jona described the atmosphere as one where people could come to take a load and relax – and that was what was planned for the Lunar New Year celebration.

“People come in, have fun, dress up, draw raffles and dance,” he said. “This is not a violent place.”

“It’s a ballroom dance studio. You’re supposed to just enjoy yourself.”

When Jona spoke to NPR, no names of the victims had been released, but he said he was bracing himself to hear that some of the people he knew were gone.

On the Sunday after the shooting, vigils of candles, flowers and notes began to appear. One note read “My deepest [and] deepest condolences for the lives lost [and] lives that change forever from this night. May the AAPI community do what we do best – take care of each other.”

Jonaki Mehta/NPR


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Jonaki Mehta/NPR

On the Sunday after the shooting, improvised vigils of candles, flowers and notes began to appear. One note read “My deepest [and] deepest condolences for the lives lost [and] lives that change forever from this night. May the AAPI community do what we do best – take care of each other.”

Jonaki Mehta/NPR

How Monterey Park Became the ‘First Suburban Chinatown’

Min Zhao, a professor of sociology and Asian American Studies at UCLA, has taken classes at the dance studio before, but was not there Saturday.

She does not live in the community, but said that, like many others of Asian descent, she visits often. The rise to the area began in the 80s, she said.

“In the 1970s, Monterey Park was already a multi-racial community and then in the 1980s there was very strong foreign investment in the community from Taiwan and other parts of Asia … and then that investment really started to attract immigrants. from Asia,” Zhao said.

“So as the suburban Chinese community, as it evolved, it becomes a magnet for more resourceful middle-class Chinese immigrants.”

Throughout Monterey Park, the signs of businesses and community centers are written in Chinese characters. This is a reflection of the city’s vibrant character that attracts immigrants and Asian Americans alike, she said.

Zhou said she was devastated when she heard the news of the shooting.

“That community is so close to my heart,” she said. “My heart goes out to the victims. It could have been me and it could have been anyone. I also feel angry that things like this are happening in our community.”

She said she believes this attack cannot be separated from the rise in anti-Asian incidents across the United States.

“Whatever the killer’s motive is, one thing for me is certain: that person is definitely motivated by the gun culture in this society and also by the violence against Asians in these recent years, especially during the pandemic,” Zhou said.

Regarding how this attack will impact individuals in the Asian community, Zhou said that even walking down the street can be scary for her personally.

“This fear is a kind of traumatization,” she said.

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