My sleepy little town of Seal Beach

I have lived in Seal Beach, California, since 1999. This small coastal town is located near the Queen Mary, between Long Beach and Huntington Beach (Surf City, USA).

You may not have heard of our sleepy little town until about 3 weeks ago, on October 12.

Sadly, you heard about Seal Beach because there was a senseless shooting spree at the Meritage Hair Salon in which eight people were killed.

That afternoon, I was on a plane to Atlanta, traveling to one of the produce industry’s biggest trade shows. When I landed and got to my hotel room, the text messages and phone calls started.

Had I heard there was a shooting spree near downtown Seal Beach? Over the next few days the information was a bit sporadic and it took a while to find out what happened. Of course I immediately called a few friends to check on them and it was on my mind the entire week I was gone.

You must know that Seal Beach is one of the quietest, quaintest towns in Southern California. We all joke about the crime report in the local paper. “Man seen lingering near the mail box on Main Street,” would be typical of the crime report. It is not unusual for my friends and neighbors to leave surfboards, luggage, golf clubs, etc on the front porch… It is such a safe community.

When I returned home after my trip, I looked through our local paper to find out the details, and did not recognize any of the victims’ names.

So, when I went to my weekend spinning (cycling) class, I was shocked to find out that one of the victims, Michelle Fast, was the 47-year-old sister of my spin instructor Rooney Daschbach.

I was devastated, as Rooney and his wife Claire are two of the nicest people I’ve ever known and we’ve become friends in the year or two I have been taking their classes each weekend. I knew they must be profoundly sad and in a state of shock. I didn’t know what to do. They were absent from the gym, so I finally emailed them a heartfelt note to express my condolences.

The weekend I returned from my trip, I went to the salon to pay my respects. There were beautiful flowers and memorials everywhere surrounding the building. Around the corner, some locals were selling T-shirts to benefit the victims’ families. The shirts had a big blue stylized heart.

Actually, the entire community of 24,000 people organized several fundraising events to raise money for the victims’ families: bake sales, silent auctions and a “Cut-a-Thon” where local hair stylists cut hair for free, in exchange for a donation. This entire weekend was devoted to the memory of the eight people who lost their lives and to their families.

It was interesting how it brought our entire community together.

A few days ago, I was told that Rooney and Claire were going to be at the gym this Sunday morning, and that there would be a spinning class in which we would ride to honor the memory of his sister.

Claire and Rooney

So, when I walked into my cycling class this Sunday morning, wearing the T-shirt I purchase last weekend, my breath was taken away. Every person in the room was wearing the same T-shirt. I saw Rooney and Claire and we hugged and cried together. And then the 20 of us cycled for an hour to music that reminded Rooney of his sister. Happy music. Sad music. Angelic music.

Our Cycling Class

After the class, Rooney and Claire and I talked. Michelle was the youngest of 6 kids and has 3 children of her own. It was lovely to hear how their family had organized themselves around supporting each other and Michelle’s kids.

Interestingly, Rooney told me that he was having trouble sleeping and was reading a book by a Jewish Rabbi, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” and it was helping him a lot. (Rooney is not Jewish.)

I have heard a lot about this book over the years and was so glad to hear that it was helping him.

Each of us will face the death of someone close to us in our life at some time. It may be after a long illness, or a sudden tragedy like the one that occurred in my sleepy little town. I don’t think there is any way to be prepared. And you will never know how you will react.

But what is important to know is that you will always have friends and family that are there to support you. And we all deal with these occurrences in our own way. And you never know when it will hit close to home.

So, let’s live each day as if it is the most special day in our life.