June 4, 2023


Outdated mates reconnected. Strangers laughed alongside one another. And on Saturday, Could 20, they danced into the night time on an Alhambra dance flooring.

It was right here, at Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio, on the eve of Lunar New Yr, the place simply 4 months in the past a younger man wrestled a gun away from a person who simply minutes earlier than, in neighboring Monterey Park, had induced what’s the deadliest American mass capturing of 2023. It was right here the place Brandon Tsay foiled a second assault.

On Saturday, tons of of individuals gathered on the website to have a good time the Asian American heritage, to chuckle, eat and revel in a night of dance – the place every step is step towards telling a unique story, one a couple of peaceable, tight-knit neighborhood that finds smiles, friendship of their beloved ballroom dance halls.

The free neighborhood dance — co-hosted by the Tsay household, which owns the studio, and Asian Individuals Advancing Justice — was a night of remembrance throughout a month dedicated to celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage. But it surely was additionally a possibility for individuals to lean on one another for assist within the aftermath of a tragedy that rocked many to their core, in response to a number of the occasion’s attendees.

Amongst these within the crowd have been households of victims, in addition to individuals who have been bodily injured and emotionally scarred by the tragedy.

For some, getting again to the dance flooring was not straightforward factor. For some it was crucial to get again quickly.

Charmeen Wing was nonetheless reeling from the lack of her mother when Mymy Nhan, a detailed pal of hers, grew to become the primary of 11 individuals to die by the hands of the gunman on the Star Ballroom Dance Studio on Jan. 21.

“I used to be so unhappy. I didn’t actually know why I used to be dancing anymore,” she mentioned.

However upon the invitation of the occasion organizers, Wing determined to choose up dancing once more, one thing she hasn’t performed since 2019.

“This has introduced me again to life,” Wing mentioned. “It introduced me again to outdated mates that I haven’t seen in years due to the pandemic, after which clearly new mates.”

Wing, who had skilled and danced at each Lai Lai and Star Ballroom for greater than 10 years, described the ballroom neighborhood as tight-knit and full of “loving, giving individuals”.

“What’s so attention-grabbing is many individuals we don’t know, perhaps their names, or perhaps solely know their first names, however we acknowledge one another from seeing one another within the ballroom for years, and we assist one another and we cheer one another,” she mentioned.

Organizers have been keenly conscious of that solidarity as troublesome recollections of Jan. 21 linger.

“This occasion is a celebration of Alhambra and Monterey Park and our communities and our victims and our allies,” mentioned Connie Chung Joe, CEO of Asian Individuals Advancing Justice-Southern California (AJSOCAL). “It’s additionally a love letter to ballroom dancing, and to all the neighborhood members right here. We need to have a good time the energy and resiliency of our neighborhood.”

Two months after the tragedy, President Joe Biden visited Monterey Park to speak with households of the victims and survivors. Throughout that journey, Biden additionally introduced an government order that seeks to extend background checks to purchase weapons, encourage protected storage of firearms and deal with the loss and theft of weapons throughout delivery, amongst different issues.

Whereas nationwide gun reform laws stays elusive, even after a number of subsequent American mass shootings, individuals on Saturday mentioned unity is important within the highway towards restoration.

Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, mentioned Saturday’s occasion was an necessary second on that highway.

“It’s been 4 months for the reason that capturing occurred, and it was devastating and numbing to this neighborhood, however we have now been beginning to course of this,” she mentioned. “In fact, we are going to always remember what occurred, however what we are able to do is unite and be sturdy earlier than it.”

Lloyd Gock, in attendance on Saturday, echoed that energy.

He was roughly 10 toes away from Huu Can Tran, 72, when Tran opened hearth at Star Ballroom Dance Studio. Gock fell to the bottom simply as bullets flew over his head, he mentioned. Though he survived the incident, it took him a very long time to heal mentally as a result of lots of these killed have been his shut mates.

However Gock was decided to not let the gunman deter him from doing what he loves most – dancing. He hit the dance flooring barely per week after the capturing as a result of he doesn’t need the gunman “to win”, Gock mentioned.

“I’m very completely happy to see many individuals are again right here dancing once more, and hopefully with time, lives will return to regular once more,” Gock mentioned.

The 20 to 30 survivors fashioned a WeChat group and maintain month-to-month conferences to examine on one another, Gock mentioned.

Just lately, he seen that extra members of the group have begun to get better from the incident.

In the meantime, Brandon Tsay, who was additionally in attendance Saturday, has develop into an American hero, but additionally has gone about utilizing his newfound notoriety to name for communities to work collectively for larger compassion and constructing bridges to one another because the neighborhood heals.

Saturday’s occasion itself, and the assist of Lai Lai within the space, appeared proof of that compassion.

Brenda Tsay, who runs the Lai Lai dance studio together with her brother and father, mentioned many individuals and organizations have reached out to the household within the aftermath of the capturing. The free occasion was made attainable with the assist of neighbors, eating places and elected officers, she mentioned.

“We expect that this neighborhood wants it,” she mentioned. “They want a day the place they’ll have a good time being Asian-American. They want a day the place they’ll have a good time their tradition. Additionally, additionally, they want a day to only take pleasure in themselves after what occurred in January.”

Gock was decided to have many days to take pleasure in, and to heal.

“If we cease dancing, the gunman will get what he needs, but when we proceed to bop, he’ll not be capable to terrorize us,” Gock mentioned.