Victoria Montemayor was a 17-year-old manager trainee in 1984 when police barred her from entering the San Ysidro McDonald's where she worked. Inside, a gunman was killing her co-workers and their customers.
On Thursday, Montemayor, now 24, brushed the tears from her cheeks as she moved her camera through a crowd of 200 people gathered outside a satellite campus of Southwestern College for the dedication of a long-awaited monument to the slain. A student journalist at the college, Montemayor was assigned to cover the event.
After the negative publicity the massacre generated, she and others said, it was important that something positive follow the tragedy for which so many people remember San Ysidro.
The memorial "means a lot, it really does," Montemayor said. "Even though it's taken them a long time to do it."
On July 18, 1984, James Oliver Huberty walked into the restaurant screaming, "I'm going to kill you all!" and sprayed the room and parking lot with gunfire. Before he was slain by a police sharpshooter, Huberty had killed 21 people and wounded 19.
The restaurant was razed soon afterward, and the one-building satellite of Southwestern College was opened on the site three years ago.
Amid the speeches, refreshments and choir music from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Elementary School, sadness for the slain and a sense of accomplishment were expressed by residents and students.
Survivors and their relatives struggled with the city of San Diego and the owner of the McDonald's franchise over compensation and medical and psychiatric treatment relating to the incident, as well as use of the site for a memorial.
The $50,000 monument, which lies directly in front of the college branch, consists of 21 hexagonal white marble pillars linked in rows forming a pyramid, with a plaque bearing the victims' names. It was designed by Roberto Valdes, 22, of Mexico City, a former architecture student at Southwestern, and paid for through private fund-raising and donations.
"The 21 hexagons represent each person that died," Valdes said. "And they are different heights, representing the variety of ages and races of the people involved in the massacre. They are bonded together in the hopes that the community, in a tragedy like this, will stick together, like they did."
Arnold Leon, 25, who was a senior in high school at the time of the massacre, cut a business class at Southwestern to attend the memorial.
"You forget about things like" the massacre, he said, "and we need little reminders to say, 'Hey, this happened,' and to just bow down your head and pay respect to the people and to know what this is here for."