“My heart aches for the city, for the people who call it home.”
By Andi Joseph
My column for the month of August was written and ready to go when I started getting texts and phone calls about the Gilroy Garlic Festival from friends and family across the country checking on me.
Being a former editor at the Gilroy Dispatch for many years, I was a regular attendee at the event. Even after I left the newspaper, I continued my annual foray onto the grounds at Christmas Hill Park for everything garlic.
This was the first time in many years that I did not attend.
As I sat glued watching news coverage on TV, I thought about friends I know who also attend the festival every year. I have a couple of friends who are officers with Gilroy Police Department, and one who works the festival every year on horseback. I felt a sense of relief every time someone replied to my “Please tell me you’re OK” texts. Everyone I know and love was safe and accounted for.
Unfortunately, as the news coverage continued, the realization hit me. As I was feeling relief, there were other people in the Gilroy community who were frantically searching for their loved ones. People not getting that return text or phone call.
Chaotic videos showed attendees sprinting through the Ranch side — through the tent-covered tables where my sister, my 8-year-old niece, and I sat last year, eating funnel cakes. It was surreal to see Gourmet Alley and vendor tents in the background, knowing that just hours earlier, thousands of people were milling about.
Reports began to come in about the number of victims. Then potential ages. And then the names of those killed, including children who were just being kids out at the family-friendly event that benefits the Gilroy community.
Though I no longer live or work within the city limits, my love for Gilroy is forever. I have several friends who live in and love the city of Gilroy, and who count themselves lucky to be residents of such a close-knit community.
My heart aches for the city, for the people who call it home. I’m saddened that a world-renowned event known for its goodness and charity has become yet another statistic in the news. Anger rises inside me as I think about those who fell: a young man, a teen, and a 6-year-old boy who will forever be a part of that Garlic Festival story.
Hang in there, Gilroy. Feel the support those near and far are sending, and grieve as much as you need. Come together to heal, and when you’re ready, I hope you return to show the world love will always win.
Andrea “Andi” Joseph worked in newspapers for 18 years before transitioning to her current career as a content writer and marketer. She lives south of Gilroy with her dogs, Bailey and Cricket. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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