Hundreds gather to honor victims of mass school shooting

Grace Eunhae Kim with Holly Kildebeck. photo by Ned Bagno

OAKLAND (Bay City News Service) — A multi-faith, bilingual memorial service for the victims of a mass shooting at an Oakland Christian vocational school on April 2 drew more than 300 friends, family, city officials and faith leaders the next evening.

Seven people were killed in the shooting at Oikos University on April 2. Four of the victims were East Bay residents, identified as Lydia Sim, 21, of Hayward; Sonam Choedon, 33, of El Cerrito; Grace Eunhea Kim, 23, of Union City; and Doris Chibuko, 40, of San Leandro, according to the Alameda County coroner’s office.

The other two victims were identified as San Jose resident Judith Seymour, 53, and San Francisco resident Tshering Bhutia, 38.
Authorities are withholding the name of the seventh victim.

All seven were fatally wounded April 2 when a gunman, identified by police as One Goh, 43, opened fire at the university on Edgewater Drive.

Three other people were injured in the shooting but survived. Police said Goh is a former student who had been expelled from the school.

City officials, numerous clergy members from at least nine different religious centers, family, friends and community members mourned the massive loss at a memorial service held at Allen Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland.

The pews were filled with mourners, some of whom had brought homemade signs, and a throng of media members lined the walls snapping photos of the diverse congregation, many from the Bay Area Korean-Christian community.

Oikos University Vice President Dr. Woo Nam Soo recounted a conversation he’d had with the father of one of the victims in his introductory remarks.

“The parent said, ‘I cannot understand,’” the university vice president said through a Korean translator. “And I said, ‘I cannot understand either.’“

The father continued to say, according to Soo, “‘My dreams for my daughter to a have professional life have completely vanished.’”

People in the congregation quietly sobbed as the service continued with a statement from the President of the Tibetan Association of Northern California, Tenzin Tsedup, who said he had known one of the victims, Choedon, who lived in El Cerrito but was a native of Tibet.

He presented Tibetan scarves for each of the victims, for what he explained was his culture’s tradition for mourning. The Tibetan Association of Northern California was scheduled to hold a prayer group in Richmond on April 3.

Mayor Jean Quan, who was seated on the stage throughout the service, spoke to the crowd about the diversity of Oakland and the shortcomings of gun control.

“This is America where finding a gun is easier than (finding) mental health services,” she said.

She listed several recent major shootings throughout the state and nation, emphasizing that gun violence is not just an Oakland issue.

“We are beginning to hurt each other,” she said, citing a rise in family and domestic violence compared to street or gang violence in Oakland and beyond.

She acknowledged the diverse immigrant groups represented in Oakland and at Oikos, including shooting victims from Nigeria, Tibet, Korea, the Philippines and India.

For immigrants, Quan said, “Oakland is a city of dreams.”

Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid, who left a weekly city council meeting to attend the memorial service on April 3, followed Quan’s speech with his own that emphasized appreciating each other and not taking life for granted.

“I love you and this is a community that loves you,” Reid said. “Oakland is my home. All of you are what make it great.”

As someone openly sobbed in a back row, Reid went on to thank the first responders at the scene on April 2, including Oakland fire Chief Teresa Reed and police Chief Howard Jordan.

After different faith leaders concluded the service with a series of prayers for the victims, the school, the international community and the Bay Area, mourners filed into the church’s parking lot.

One group was comprised of former classmates from Kennedy High School in Fremont. All 2007 graduates, they had made T-shirts with a picture of their friend and former classmate Kim, known to friends as Grace.

Fremont resident Edwin Crespo, 23, was wearing the shirt and reminisced with fellow classmate R.J. Lumibao, 23, about a funny memory with Grace from their freshman year physical education class.

“She was loud and happy,” he said.

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