SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Terri Albritton spent her teaching career in the small California border town of San Ysidro and became well known in this part of southern San Diego County.
She has also lived here for 41 years.
Throughout her teaching career, Albritton had thousands of students, but one young boy stands out in her mind for something he did outside the classroom.
He survived what became known as the McDonald’s Massacre.
“He laid there and pretended to be dead,” said Albritton. “When the Uvalde shooting happened, it was like the little girl who covered herself in blood and pretended to be dead … children are so resilient.”
The boy and two of his friends had gone to the local McDonald’s restaurant on their bikes. His two friends were shot and killed by James Huberty, a disgruntled and out-of-work security guard who told his wife he was “going hunting for humans.”
During the incident, Huberty killed 21 men, women and children in and around the restaurant.
A SWAT sniper killed him, ending what at the time was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
“It’s just a horribly difficult thing to remember,” Albittron said. “On the other hand, this place, this is a special place for us to remember. One of the reasons that I come here on a regular basis, or at least once a year, is that this particular shooting has been forgotten … we just feel great sadness every time there’s a mass shooting of any kind, it just really piques the sadness something like this had to happen.”
Albritton told Border Report that over the years, she has gotten to know several of the victims’ families and that it “bugs her” that most people have forgotten about the incident or don’t know anything about it.
Six years after the shootings, a memorial with 21 pillars of different heights was placed on the site, including a plaque with the victims’ names on it.
The site is now a satellite campus for Southwestern Community College, which has taken on the role of caretaker for the memorial and the victims’ legacy.
Every year on the date of the shooting, July 18, the memorial is covered with flowers including sunflowers, roses, carnations and gladiolas of different shades and colors.
“It was a promise to our community that we would not forget,” said Patty Bartow, director of operations at the school.
The campus has dedicated a portion of a wall inside detailing the history of the shooting with artwork that features the names of the victims.
“We still have families of the victims who come by to pay their respects,” Bartow said. “Our students are learning, too, and they’re here and learning about what happened.”