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Death in the Afternoon


Attention, national and international, has focused on the anguish of Seal Beach, Calif., where gunfire inside a hair salon on a warm afternoon Wednesday left eight people dead and a woman wounded. The worst mass killing in Orange County history has stunned the coastal town of about 25,000 residents, along with the rest of the county.

One Seal Beach resident, Brand Powers, posted on Facebook, "The whole place is shaken up."

As flowers, candles, balloons and other mementos piled up in front of Salon Meritage, police released the names of the dead, including the former wife of the alleged shooter, Scott Evans Dekraai, 41, of Huntington Beach.

No matter where you live or how you learned about the massacre, the horror was jarring. Karla Kraft was walking to dinner Wednesday night with her husband and daughter in their hometown of Corona del Mar, and they passed a beauty salon with an awning similar to that of the slaying scene.

"Just looking at the salon made me shiver," she said.

In another Facebook post, Becky Decker of Kansas City, Mo., wrote, "One of my cousins lived (in Seal Beach) for several years. Deb and I loved Seal Beach. It felt like Mayberry. Everyone was so sweet. Our thoughts go out to all the family and friends of those injured."

The killings refocused attention on what, until Wednesday, was the county's worst mass slaying: the rampage inside the Cal State Fullerton library on July 12, 1976, in which custodian Edward Charles Allaway killed seven people and wounded two others with a rifle. He was convicted, then declared insane and since has been held at a state mental hospital.

Words don't adequately express the wrenching emotions that such rampages invoke, and the lives of those who lost loved ones or close friends may never be the same. The rest of us can only mourn and acknowledge, again, that life is a precious gift of uncertain duration.




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