Discover more from 285 South
"Some had said this pain would go away and I would smile again....that day has yet to come."
Robert Peterson, son of Yong Ae Yue, who was killed in the Atlanta spa shootings, joins community members at event to mark 1-year since the attacks.
On Saturday, Robert Peterson arrived at Blackburn Park in Brookhaven and stood in front of over a hundred people huddling in the cold, there to honor his mother Yong Ae Yun, and the seven other other people who were killed in the Atlanta area spa shootings on March 16, 2021.
"She was just like any other mother. She just wanted to work, and provide for her family, and enjoy life, and her friends. And someone took that away from us. At at time when me and my brother needed her the most."
Strong winds blew through the white ceremony tent in the below freezing weather, as Robert and other speakers reflected on the pain and grief of the last year.
The daughter of Suncha Kim, who was killed in the attacks, wrote a letter that was read by Phi Nguyen, Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta.
"I do not forgive a person who takes someone's life out of anger. Today I'm still in the process of grieving my mother's loss, and I feel the impact she left on the world while she was still alive...I will live the life my mother asked me to...and she always told me me to live humbly and lovingly," read Nguyen.
Daoyou Feng didn't have family in Atlanta. When she was killed, her family wasn't able to travel to the U.S. because of pandemic restrictions. A local community organization, the Atlanta Chinese American Alliance (ACAA), stepped in to provide direct support by organizing burial and funeral services for her. Charles Li of the ACAA read a letter sent by Feng's brother, "My sister came to the United States to look for a better life and help the family. She worked hard and always treated everyone nicely. We still don't understand why such a nice and lovely girl was killed by someone who holds hatred in the heart...We just hope that this kind of death and hatred will never happen again, to anyone, in the future."
Organizers and community leaders drew connections between white supremacy, increasing violence towards Asian Americans, and the need to come together around racial equity and justice. Choosing to have the event at Blackburn was symbolic - inside the park sits a memorial to "comfort women," the young women who were sexually trafficked by the Japanese military during World War. People came to pay their respects, laying yellow, white and pink carnations beside the statue of the young girl.
As the ceremony drew to a close, people lined up to view the art installations and write down their hopes for the community on "The Wishing Tree." “
“Mom didn’t die alone. She would be glad that you were standing with me, together for the fight for racial equity, justice, and reconciliation amongst our community. She would ask that we not allow her and others to be victimized in vain, but to speak out so that the next generation can live without fear, and to be recognized, and to be seen fully as humans," said Peterson.