Pat Almazan gazes at the seven stone pines at the Cal State Fullerton Memorial Grove and thinks:
Which one represents my father? Is it the tall one? The strong-looking one?
Every year for the last 40 years, Almazan has visited the memorial at CSF that serves as a tribute to the seven people killed and two wounded by a gunman on July 12, 1976 — an incident that until recently was O.C.’s worst mass killing.
And when she visits the serene space every year, Almazan places a red rose beside each tree.
One of the victims of shooter Edward Allaway, now 77 and confined to a mental institution after a judge found him not guilty by reason of insanity for the mass killings, was Almazan’s father, Frank G. Teplanksy, 51, a graphic artist who worked at CSF.
Last night, on Tuesday, July 12, Teplansky and the other victims of the massacre were remembered by Almazan, fellow survivor Paul Paulsen, whose 26-year-old sister, Debbie, was slain, as well CSF officials and members of local government and law enforcement.
The 40th Anniversary Memorial and Candlelight Vigil came at a time when mass shootings are occurring with escalating frequency – the latest, of course, being the ambush killings of five police officers in Dallas.
Those killings, as well as other massacres, were mentioned by several speakers at Tuesday’s ceremony at CSF. Several used the occasion to not only remember the seven killed and two wounded at the hands of Allaway, but all victims of homicide.
“Be forever vigilant in hopes of preventing such a nightmare of this magnitude from ever happening again,” Paulsen said in his remarks, which included poignant and at times humorous recollections of his sister, who he said served as his mentor through life.
Debbie Paulsen, two years older than Paul, was an “incurable Beatlemaniac” who loved to iron her long blonde hair — a quintessential flower child who played the acoustic guitar (badly, Paul said) and loved stray and abandoned animals.
His voice cracking at times, Paulsen thanked those who attended Tuesday’s ceremony.
“Your presence affirms the unbreakable bonds of our community,” Paulsen said.
Almazan said it has been difficult to find closure 40 years after the massacre — something made harder by the fact Allaway remains alive.
“You can’t put a time limit on grief,” Almazan said.
She mentioned the fallen Dallas officers and the 49 victims of the mass shooting in Orlando.
“Mass murder is an extreme and horrific attack on unsuspecting beings,” Almazan said.
Later, in comments to Behind the Badge OC, Almazan said it was gratifying to see so many people show up for the candlelight vigil and memorial.
“It helps me to find a little piece of closure that I’ve been piecing together for 40 years,” Almazan said. “It made my heart feel very good. And it was very helpful for me to share what’s been painful for me for so many years.”
In addition to Teplansky and Paulsen, the victims of the July 12, 1976 CSF shooting were Stephen L. Becker, 32, library assistant; Seth Fessenden, 72, professor emeritus in speech communications; Paul F. Herzberg, 30, photographer; Bruce A. Jacobson, 32, equipment technician; and Donald E. Karges, 41, janitor.
Wounded were Maynard Hoffman, 64, supervising custodian; and Donald W. Keran, 55, associate librarian.
Master of Ceremonies Paul Miller, a chaplain for the CSF PD, started working at the university two years before the mass shooting and said his office was directly across from the supply closet Allaway, a CSF janitor, used.
“Never in my worst nightmares did I ever expect that he would be capable of such violence,” Miller said.
Miller mentioned the cop killings in Dallas as well as the December 2015 terrorist attacks in San Bernardino that left 14 dead and 22 injured.
“We stand in solidarity with the victims,” Miller said.
Capt. John Brockie, acting chief of the CSF PD, noted that the vigil was held on the day his officers participated in active-shooter response training as a kind of tribute to the nine CSF victims.
“We must always be prepared for the worst,” Brockie said.
Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer said it’s a “duty of citizens” to remind the public of the horrors that happened at CSF 40 years ago.
“Their memory and their legacy…is here, fresh and present,” Spitzer said.
Spitzer, too, cited the scary times we live in.
“Forty years ago, (this shooting) was an outrageous aberration; today, it’s common,” he said. “It scares me. I’m worried about it; we should all worry about it.”
Assistant O.C. District Attorney Dan Wagner, who has successfully kept Allaway confined to Patton State Hospital since Allaway first petitioned to be released in 2001, citing two doctors who believed he was safe enough to be freed, said Allaway never should roam the streets a free man.
Allaway can petition for release once a year, which triggers a court hearing during which his sanity is assessed.
CSF President Mildred Garcia told attendees that despite all the recent mass shootings, there is reason for hope.
“We know there are good people who stand against violence,” Garcia said.
Paulsen reminded people to listen to the trees blowing in the breeze.
Maybe, he told them, they can hear in the gentle rustling of the leaves the voices of those previously silenced.
Behind the Badge OC Photographer Steven Georges contributed to this story.