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Town finds lesson in scars from '84 massacre
By Bonnie Booth | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/200 10:06 PM

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Originally published Jan. 10, 1993

When a gunman walked into the McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, Calif, in 1984 and opened fire - killing 21 people and wounding 19 more - the community was changed forever.

Now, almost 10 years after that tragedy, the McDonald's is no more. In its place is the San Ysidro Education Center - a satellite campus of Southwestern College. The school shares its space with a monument to those killed in the one-man shooting spree.

Some residents say the grief and anger have passed and the construction of the school and the monument have brought acceptance of the tragedy and hope to the community.

But they say the massacre will never - and should never - be forgotten.

"It cannot be forgotten," San Diego Police Lt. Michael Davis said. "The community of San Ysidro has made a real effort to make sure it is remembered. Not only were the people who died important, but the social problems that created the incident are also important."

James Oliver Huberty was a 41-year-old unemployed security guard when he entered the McDonald's restaurant at 4 p.m. on July 18, 1984, and began shooting. His rampage ended 90 minutes later when he was killed by a police sharpshooter.

Davis said Huberty did all the "right things" to signal that he needed help, but his symptoms were not noticed by those around him.

Whoever committed the Palatine murders, Davis said, probably had problems that were triggered by an event.

"If that person had gotten help, if his family had the insight, perhaps this wouldn't have happened," he said.

In San Ysidro, the tragedy brought the community closer together, Davis said.

"Something like this causes people to strip those barriers that separate us," he said. "It makes you want to put you're arm around someone and give them a big hug. Unfortunately, it takes a tragedy to do that."