Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., speaks during an anti-Asian racism press conference honoring the one-year anniversary of the Atlanta spa shootings at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
March 16 (UPI) -- Members of Congress marked the one-year anniversary of a series of deadly shootings in Atlanta that Rep. Judy Chu said shocked Americans "awake to the reality of Asian hate."
Chu, chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, opened the somber event on the steps to the U.S. Capitol with a remembrance of the shootings, which left eight people dead.
"I will never forget the moment that one year ago today a gunman entered three Asian-owned spas and killed eight people, including six Asian women," she said. "He was so deliberate in his desire to kill Asian women that he drove 27 miles between the spas to ensure he would hit his targets.
"America was finally shocked awake to the reality of anti-Asian hate."
The shootings came amid rising anti-Asian rhetoric and violence in the United States in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in China. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 339% in 2021 compared to a year prior.
The gunman, though, told police he was motivated by a conflict between sexual addiction and his Christianity, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.
Among the victims were Daoyou Feng, 44; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Suncha Kim, 69; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Soon Chung Park, 74; Xiaojie Tan, 49; Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; and Yong Ae Yue, 63. A ninth victim, Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, survived the gunshot wound he received.
The families of the victims were expected to attend local memorial events to remember their loved ones and bring awareness to anti-Asian crimes, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The Asian Justice Rally-Break the Silence rally is expected to be held Wednesday afternoon at the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot, and a memorial is scheduled for Wednesday evening at the Korean American Center in Norcross, Ga.
Hernandez-Ortiz told the Journal-Constitution he was "initially very angry" after he was injured in the shooting.
"But as days passed on and I had time to reflect, I realized I was so thankful to God for saving my life," he added.
Randy Park, Hyun's son, recently wrote on a fundraising website that his mother always ended her night by telling both her sons, "I love you."
"Not a day goes by where we don't think about our mother and what transpired," he wrote. "The cruel reality is that time cannot be reversed and the act undone. All we can do now is hold on to her memory and live a fulfilling life."
Juilianna Chen mourns outside Gold Spa, one of the three sites where a total of eight people were shot dead last week in Atlanta. Photo by Tami Chappell/UPI | License Photo