Spontaneous Shrines

"We who build shrines and construct public altars or parade with photographs of the deceased will not allow you to write off victims as regrettable statistics…They are, I believe, the voice of the people." –Jack Santino

EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! Makeshift memorial as news headline!

In early October there was a shooting in Seal Beach, California that killed eight people and wounded at least one other.  Something caught my eye while I was scanning through the news related to the shooting.  Several of the articles featured the makeshift memorial (another name for spontaneous shrine) in the headline!  The article posted below is a prime example.  The main content of the article is about the shooting, not the memorial.  However, the memorial is used as the hook to grab readers’ attention.  In recent years, awareness about the presence of shrines has increased, and with it people’s fascination with the unique folk memorials.

I wonder if, especially in places like southern California where violence is not uncommon (particularly in the popular news media–which seems to take advantage of every opportunity to highlight all types of crime) the memorial is used in the headline to arouse curiosity because crime itself does not anymore.  In the same way that roadside shrines put faces and names and individual lives to the greater issue of HIGHWAY FATALITIES, memorials focus on the personal consequences of crime–the lives lost because of it, rather than the larger issue of CRIME itself.  The memorial in the headline is the anti-numbing agent, so to speak, in contrast to the ever-present ‘this crime happened and so did this one and so did this one…’

See the article on the Los Angeles Times blog, here.

Makeshift memorial set up at Seal Beach shooting scene

October 12, 2011 | 10:19 pm

Seal Beach shooting rampage
After darkness descended Wednesday, a group of neighbors and bystanders assembled a spontaneous memorial of flowers, candles and cards outside the Seal Beach beauty salon where eight people were slain and another critically wounded in a shooting rampage.

Some prayed aloud near the police tape that marked the crime scene. Their prayers went out to all their neighbors and friends since the victims have not yet been publicly identified.

Full coverage: Deadly shooting at Seal Beach hair salon

Pam Rayburn, 53, placed sunflowers under the small tree draped with police tape.

She also left a handwritten card that read: “To the family of my neighbor: I don’t know you, but I want you to know you are not alone.”

Rayburn said she lives just across the San Gabriel River in Long Beach, but walks past the salon every day, goes to a nearby salon and considers Seal Beach her home. Her husband practices law from an office a few blocks away on the town’s Main Street.

Rayburn, who works at Cal State Long Beach, lost her 23-year-old daughter to suicide four years ago and said news of the deaths Wednesday stirred up memories of that day.

She pictured the families of the victims being called by police with painful news.

“No family should ever get that call,” she said.

 “It just doesn’t make sense. It’s such a small town; nothing ever happens,” Rayburn said, wiping away tears. “Another tragedy, another senseless loss.”

–Tony Barboza in Seal Beach

Photo: People comfort each other Wednesday afternoon near the shooting scene. Credit: Gina Ferazzi /Los Angeles Times

 

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