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In the Pipeline: Fighting for the love of his life

October 09, 2012|By Chris Epting
(Courtesy PAUL WILSON )

It's hard to believe that this Friday marks one year. Do you remember where you were when you heard? I was driving back from Los Angeles, on my way to a vigil outside the home of beloved Ocean View High School coach Jim Harris, who would soon die from cancer.

My column that next week began with, "The mercury pushed up near 100 degrees throughout the region, the sort of strange, unseasonably arid kind of day that will prompt at least a few to start wondering about 'earthquake weather.' It was a summer day that didn't happen all summer, and the odd, almost-eerie stillness that comes with such an afternoon was obliterated about 1:30 when a gunman in Seal Beach opened fire, killing eight innocent people (and injuring a ninth)."

Do you remember what you were doing the day a madman named Scott Dekraai allegedly slaughtered those innocent people at the hair salon in Seal Beach, the worst massacre in Orange County history?

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Forty-seven-year-old Paul Wilson remembers all too well what he was doing. He had gotten his haircut at the salon, where his wife Christy worked, just two hours before the killings began. Then he was at work in Commerce, where he runs a clothing manufacturing company. He received a phone call from his daughter saying she saw police cars and helicopters near the salon. Then he got another call from Gordon, the guy who had cut his hair, telling him he had to get back to the salon. Wilson told Gordon to tell him that Christy was OK. Gordon said he could not do that, and hung up.

Racing wildly down the 605 toward Seal Beach, blinkers flashing, Wilson next received a call from his mother. He pulled over. She told him there had been a shooting, but that she thought Christy was OK.

Somewhat relieved, Wilson continued on to the salon. But when he arrived, he saw his wife's car in the parking lot, and his heart sank. He knew something was wrong. A Long Beach police officer, a family friend, walked Wilson to a nearby church that had become a makeshift grief center for family members. That's when he got the news that his wife of 24 years had been taken from him and their three children. Christy had been getting her hair washed by Michelle Fournier, the ex-wife of the shooter, and she was the second person to get shot after Fournier.

Talking with Wilson today puts the event in a new, chilling perspective. But it also reminds us that while we, the public, have returned to our collective routine, every day is still a living hell for the family members of victims.

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