A Testimony to the Atlanta Shooting


By Wajiha Rizvi, Staff Writer

In three horrifying shootings on March 16th, 2021, eight people lost their lives at Atlanta spas, leaving behind family members and friends, including longtime customers.

Seven of the eight killed were women, while six people being of Asian descent.

Here is what is known about these victims:

Xiaojie Tan would have turned 50 last Thursday. She was the owner of Young’s Asian Massage, where one of the shootings that killed her and three others took place. Alongside her husband, Jason Wang, they also ran Young’s Nail Salon and Wang’s Feet and Body Massage.

“She donated and gave money to her employees and treated them so well,” Wang said. “She was always celebrating their birthdays, doing good things for them.”

While she was also working 60 hours a week, Tan hosted lessons at her house, teaching other women her business. In the same period, she trained and became licensed in massage therapy. She forwarded the money to her family and even sent back other gifts for her parents when her friends visited China.

Delaina Yaun was a customer at Young’s Asian Massage. On that fateful day, she had booked a couple’s massage with her husband. According to The Washington Post, they were in separate rooms when the gunman entered and started shooting, and Yaun was killed.

Over the past year, she gave birth to her second child, a daughter. Shortly after, Mario Gonzalez and her husband were wed in a small ceremony in Ringgold, Ga.

Her dreams were finally coming true. Things were falling into place with her,” said Lisa Marie, Yaun’s longtime friend. “It was good to see her happiness.”

When she wasn’t with family, Yaun worked hard, covering the third shift at a local Waffle House. She had been a server at the restaurant chain since 2013 and was recently cross-trained as a grill operator, Waffle House said in a statement.

Paul Andre Michels was a handyman at Young’s Asian Massage. An army veteran, he struggled to find a job during the pandemic and appreciated getting to build.

When he wasn’t working, he fished and spent time with his wife, Bonnie. Although the couple didn’t have any children, his friend Kikiana Whidby said Michels treated everyone like he was their uncle.

“He was a good, hard-working man who would do what he could do to help people,” his brother, John Michels, said in an interview with WSB-TV 2. “He’d loan you money if you need it sometimes. You never went away from his place hungry.”

Do you Feng was a worker at Young’s Asian Massage. According to a friend of Xiaojie Tan’s who spoke with The Washington Post, not much is known about Feng, who started working in the past few months and was kind and quiet.

Yong Ae Yue worked at the Aromatherapy Spa in Atlanta. She came to the USA in the 1970s with her husband, Mac Peterson, The New York Times reported.

One son, Robert Peterson, 38, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution she was laid off amid the pandemic and excited to return to work. She frequently spent her time cooking Korean food, visiting friends, and watching movies and soap operas or reading.

“My mother didn’t do anything wrong,” Peterson said. “And she deserves the recognition that she is a human; she’s a community person like everyone else. None of those people deserved what happened to them.”

Hyun Jung Grant worked at the Gold Spa in Atlanta; she was a single mother who did all she could to support her sons, according to son Randy Park.

Park told the Daily Beast that Grant loved dancing, electronic music, and her sons. He said she hid her job from them, saying instead that she worked at a makeup store. The Washington Post says before she moved from South Korea, she was an elementary school teacher, she told her sons.

“And here in America, she did what she had to do,” he said to the news website. “She was a single mother of two kids who dedicated her whole life to raising them.”

Soon Chung Park worked at Gold Spa and moved to Atlanta after spending most of her life in the New York metro area.

Her son-in-law, Scott Lee, told the Washington Post that after he married Park’s daughter, they all lived in Lyndhurst, New Jersey before Park moved to Georgia. She had planned to move back in with Lee and his wife in June, he said.

Lee said Park liked to work and stay active.

“She was very healthy,” he said. “Everybody said she was going to live past 100 years old.”

Suncha Kim was a grandmother who worked at the Gold Spa, across the street from Aromatherapy, and liked to line dance, the New York Times reported. Quoting a relative, the newspaper said Kim had been married for more than 50 years and had come to the USA from South Korea seeking better educational opportunities and a better life for herself and her family.

The Washington Post reported that Kim came to the USA around 1980 and offered her cooking services as a volunteer to help raise funds for several organizations after working several odd jobs. Family members told the Post she made her children a priority.

The suspected gunman, Robert Aaron Long, was charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault.

The shooting has been associated with the rise of hate crimes against Asian Americans, which have increased dramatically over this past year.

Reuters says U.S. Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth expressed doubts about FBI Director Chris Wray’s initial assessment that the shooting may not constitute a hate crime, saying it “looks racially motivated.”

“From where I sit, I want to see a deeper investigation into whether or not these shootings and other similar crimes are racially motivated,” Duckworth, who is one of only two Asian-Americans currently serving in the U.S. Senate, told CBS.

Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” also questioned that assessment, suggesting he believes race played a role.

“We all know hate when we see it,” he said. “It is tragic that we’ve been visited by this kind of violence yet again.”

Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jay Baker, who told the media in a press conference that a sexual addiction may have fueled the crime and said Long had had “a really bad day,” has since come under major criticism from political leaders and civil rights advocates for making insensitive and unprecedented comments. They noted such remarks only fuel larger stigmas about race and gender.

The sheriff’s office later remarked that Baker never intended to offend anyone. Baker is no longer serving as a spokesman for the case.

President Biden and Vice President Harris also met with advocates from Georgia’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community and local lawmakers.

“Racism is real in America, and it has always been. Xenophobia is real in America and always has been,” Harris said. “The last year, we’ve had people in positions of incredible power scapegoating Asian Americans. People with the biggest pulpits spreading this kind of hate.”

“I feel that the Atlanta shooting was absolutely racially motivated,” says Wayne Hills sophomore Eunice Chi. “I can’t believe that there are people in this country who are willing to believe that nobody is a racist unless they outright admit it.”

She concludes by saying, “are we seriously listening to a mass murderer? He saw the Asian women in those parlors as “temptations” to eliminate and blamed his “sex addiction” on them- if that’s not racial, I don’t know what is.”