Santana Graduates Remember Classmates


Three months after her son was gunned down in a burst of campus violence that shocked the nation, Mari Gordon-Rayborn accepted his diploma Thursday in a graduation ceremony marked with tears.

Dressed in a purple cap and gown at Santana High School, Gordon-Rayborn received a standing ovation when her son Randy’s name was read and she was handed his diploma by principal Karen Degischer.

“Randy and Bryan, you’ll always be in our hearts,” Degischer told the graduates and family members assembled on the school’s football field.


Randy Gordon, 17, and Bryan Zuckor, 14, were shot to death in an attack March 5 that left 13 others wounded.

“We all miss them and remember them,” graduate Catherine Bearden said after the ceremony. “I felt the presence of Randy and Bryan with us.”

Charles “Andy” Williams, 15, a student at the school, now faces murder charges for the attack in which 30 bullets were sprayed randomly.

“We saw two sparrows fall and wondered, ‘How could it happen to us?’ ” valedictorian Aemon Cannon told the crowd. “[But] the class of 2001 is not and will never be ruled by hate.”

Although there was a festive sense as 377 graduates in this blue-collar suburb of San Diego received their diplomas and prepared for a night at Disneyland, there was also sadness.

“This is the class not only of 2001 but March 5,” said Santee Mayor Randy Voepel. “The whole school will always be the class of March 5.”

Seventeen days after the rampage at Santana, a second school in the Grossmont Union High School District was hit by violence when five people were wounded. Jason Hoffman, 18, faces charges in that incident.

In a jarring coda to an already traumatic year, a virulently anti-gay minister led a half-dozen picketers in a protest linking the March 5 violence to the school district’s policy of tolerance toward gays.

The Rev. Fred Phelps, minister of Westborn Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., asserts that tolerance toward gays eroded the moral values of the school, making violence inevitable.

The school district obtained a restraining order restricting Phelps and his followers to a corner of a parking lot, away from the graduation ceremony. With sheriff’s deputies close by, there were no incidents or confrontations.


Times correspondent Paul Levikow contributed to this story.