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Southwestern College's Higher Education Center in San Ysidro honors victims of McDonald's Massacre

Plaque at the Southwestern College San Ysidro Center honoring the victim's of the McDonald's massacre.

Photo by Laura Cavanaugh

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This summer marks the 30th anniversary of the devastating McDonald's massacre in San Ysidro that left 21 victims dead in 1984. This week a local college that was built on the site of those mass killings is honoring that symbol of triumph over tragedy.

On Thursday, May 8, Southwestern College's Higher Education Center in San Ysidro will commemorate their 25th anniversary. The college is a monument to learning, honoring those 21 victims who died in the mass shootings, as well as a living memorial to honor the resilience of the survivors who continue to bear the scars of that day.

Nearly 30 years ago, on July 18, 1984, a deranged gunman dressed in camouflage walked into the San Ysidro McDonald's with an Uzi, a shotgun and a pistol. James Huberty, a 41 year-old unemployed security guard, opened fire, killing 21 people and inuring 19 others before he was killed by a police sharp shooter.

At the time, it was the largest massacre in American history. McDonald's razed the restaurant and deeded the land to the City of San Diego, which sold it to Southwestern College in 1988.

The memorial, which includes 21 white pillars to honor each victim, was dedicated in 1990. It continues to serve as a tribute and a promise to better the lives of the community through education.

In 2009 the center was rebuilt with more classrooms and improved student facilities. What originally started as portable units to accommodate 200 students has flourished into a bonified satellite campus that has served more than 60,000 students over the last 25 years.

The college is the southernmost learning facility right near the border, educating a number of first generation students with the highest need. What was once a hallowed ground and a place of sadness has transformed into a source of hope and inspiration.

On Thursday Southwestern College's Higher Education Center in San Ysidro will be hosting a 25th anniversary celebration of their success complete with a tribute to their history, testimonials from former students, as well as live entertainment and dancing from 11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. Everyone is invited.

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