By Henri Migala and Rebecca Jefferis Williamson
Photos by Henri Migala
March 9, 2021 (Santee) – A solemn community vigil, attended by about 100 community members including current and former students, was held on the campus of Santana High School in Santee on March 5th to mark the 20th anniversary of a tragic day.
Twenty years ago, on March 5, 2001, 15-year-old Charles Andrew “Andy” Williams Jr., killed two students and wounded 13 others with his father’s Arminius HW-7 22-caliber revolver, on the campus of Santana High School.
The shootings started at 9:20 a.m. and lasted for six horrifying minutes. By the time it was over, two students, Bryan Zuckor, 14, and Randy Gordon, 17, lost their lives. Eleven other students and two staff members were wounded.
“We’re here tonight to recognize the 20-year anniversary and it’s just been a really difficult time for us,” said Rachel Maurice, a student at Santana on the day of the shooting and one of the organizers of this evening’s vigil.
Maurice went on to say, “That day for me was… awful, and it was something I would never wish on anybody. People say you never get over it. And you don’t. It’s a journey. There are many students who were there that day, and they don’t come, and haven’t come in 20 years. They’ve never been able to come back to campus. It means so much to have the community support.”
She added, “We’re here because Randy and Bryan were killed, and they can’t be here. Their voices are lost forever.”
To fellow survivors of mass violence, she implored, “Please, reach out for help. Please know that you are not alone. We’re in this together and we only have each other, and it’s our responsibility to get through the human process. It’s not our fault it happened to us, but it’s our responsibility to go and get through from it. And we can do that together”.
The mothers of both Bryan Zuckor and Randy Gordon were present at the vigil.
Mari Gordon-Rayborn, mother of Randy Gordon, the 17-year old Santana senior who was killed that day, said, “I received a letter only a few years ago from a student who was there that day telling me how sorry they were that they didn’t do anything to try to stop Randy from being killed. There was no name on the letter, so I don’t know if it was from a boy or girl, or how to get ahold of the person. But I want to tell him, or her, that they shouldn’t feel bad. It wasn’t their responsibility to stop the shooter. It was their responsibility to worry about the dance, the prom, about being a good student. They shouldn’t have to think or worry about a shooter. I don’t know how to reach the student but I want them
to know that it’s okay.”
Michelle Macagba, mother of Bryan Zuckor, the 14-year old Santana freshman who was also killed, was also present. She was kind and gracious to share a comment because her anguish and grief were still raw and palpable, as if the shooting had happened only last week.
“I come every year to put up pictures and remember Bryan. When I was here putting up pictures earlier today, a lady came to me and said that she knew Bryan in school,” she said. “They were classmates, and Bryan would help her with her math homework. She said that he even wished her a happy birthday, which surprised her because she didn’t know that Bryan even knew when her birthday was.”
She recalled, “Bryan was that kind of kid. Someone who would go out of his way to help others and make others feel good. He loved to laugh…Bryan loved Mustangs, so I bought a Mustang to remember him. It’s my third Mustang, and the license plate has his name on it. He was only 14!”
Williams, who is currently serving a 50-years-to-life prison sentence will be eligible for parole in 2025. He pled guilty to two counts of first degree-murder and 13 counts of attempted murder. He is incarcerated in California. Even though he was a minor himself at that time, he was tried as an adult. In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2013, Williams detailed being a victim of bullying and said he “didn’t want to live anymore,” though he surrendered after the shooting.
In 2018 Williams requested a commutation of his sentence. Additionally, he, and others on his behalf have appealed his sentence but so far, the appeals and commutation have been denied.
Then-President George W. Bush offered his condolences to the victims, stating, “Our prayers go out to the families that lost a child today.”
The flyer promoting the commemorative vigil noted: “One School---One Heart—Randy & Bryan -a community reunites for the 20th Anniversary”. Participants adhered to social distancing and wore face coverings, as the event planners requested due to the COVID-19 pandemic.