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‘He was my superman’: Families at San Jose shooting vigil mourn lives lost

A young man and woman stand at a flower-covered memorial.
Mourners pause in front of a memorial for the nine victims of a shooting at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

The voice of Paul Delacruz Megia’s father grew lighter as he shared what a joy it had been to work alongside his son at the Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose.

Megia joined the agency in the early 2000s so he could pay to attend college, his father said. He was laid off after a few months but decided to return several years later to begin a career there.

“We really enjoyed seeing each other because he would be on the light rail and I would be on the bus,” his father recalled, describing how they would wave at each other. “It was a happy time.”

He paused, his tone suddenly filled again with grief.

“But yesterday was the saddest moment of my life.”

The gunman set his own house on fire before driving to a union meeting at the VTA facility and shooting, authorities said.

On Thursday night, hundreds of people gathered outside San Jose’s City Hall to honor the nine people killed Wednesday when a gunman opened fire at the light rail yard.

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All were longtime employees at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, ranging in age from 29 to 63.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo read their names, pausing a few seconds before each one. He spoke about how healing would be a long and hard journey for many.

“We’re here to share our pain, we’re here to share our love, to share our support for each other,” he said. “We’re here to express a singular message in our community: We will heal, and we will heal together.”

At a news briefing earlier in the day, VTA board members and officials shared their shock and sadness over the shooting, which was described as a workplace dispute.

“Words are not enough to justify the pain we are going through,” VTA light rail transportation Supt. Naunihal Singh said. “I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m lost for words. At the same time I’m trying to find reasons why.”

He said it showed the character of his co-workers that they tried to save others during the attack. The family of one victim, Taptejdeep Singh, said he helped fellow workers hide before being shot.

San Jose City Councilman Raul Peralez spoke as both a VTA board member and a friend of one of the victims.

“Personally, my heart is broken,” Peralez said. “And honestly, it’s going to take a lot of time — not for me, but for all of us — to be able to heal.”

Victims’ support funds have been set up through Working Partnership USA and the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Victims of the San Jose shooting at a Valley Transportation Authority light rail yard were longtime employees.

Terra Fritch was by her husband’s side when he died. She described Alex, 49, as her “best friend.”

“We had one of those very special relationships that I think most people just dream of,” she told The Times. “We were never really apart. And if he was somewhere without me, it was definitely noticed. Like, where is the other half?”

The two fell in love practically at first sight and were married six months after meeting, Fritch said. They were supposed to renew their vows in Hawaii for their 20th wedding anniversary in September.

Alex loved dirt bikes, tiki bars and “most of all, luckily, he loved me,” she said.

On Wednesday morning, Fritch knew something was amiss when her husband, who worked the graveyard shift, wasn’t home yet. She would learn later he was at a hospital with a gunshot wound to the head.

A nurse gave her the “biggest gift” by allowing Fritch to lie down in the hospital bed next to her husband Wednesday night. As his life slipped away, she rubbed his chest and held his hand. Then his heart stopped, and he took his last breath. “I continued to stay there with him for as long as I could,” she said.

During Thursday night’s vigil, faith leaders and elected officials who spoke offered words of prayer and sympathy, but the heartbreak the tragedy caused was most visible when the victims’ family members took the stage.

Liccardo read a statement from the family of 29-year-old Adrian Balleza, who left behind a 2-year-old son. The family said Balleza’s proudest moment had been becoming a father.

“It breaks my heart that he won’t be able to watch him grow up, take him fishing or to his first football game,” they said. “He had so much life left and things he wanted to do, and he was loved by so many people.”

An investigation into the San Jose attack indicates a targeted attack and a long-angry gunman, as the families and friends of the nine victims grieve.

Karman Singh recalled how his brother, Taptejdeep, 36, would joke that he looked younger than Singh, despite being six years older.

He often came to Taptejdeep for help, Singh said, describing how his brother “shielded me from responsibilities of this world.”

Whatever trouble he was in, “he was my first call,” Singh said.

Taptejdeep extended that kindness to those he didn’t know as well, like Singh’s friends and colleagues.

“No matter when I called, who I called for, he never asked questions,” Singh said. “He asked, ‘Hey, what’s the problem? I’m going to help them.’”

Other families described similarly close relationships with the loved ones they lost.

Audrey, the daughter of Timothy Michael Romo, 49, said her dad would often call her his “favorite little girl,” to which she would playfully respond, “I’m your only little girl.”

Romo’s son, Scott, said that his father had been “everything I ever wanted to be as a man.”

“There will not be a second or day that goes by that I don’t want to call him and ask how to do something or fix something around my house or get my truck going again,” he said.

“He was my superman, and I’ll never not miss him.”


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