Hundreds of people gathered at Fountain Valley Sports Park on Thursday for a ceremony that held multiple meanings. Organizers set up luminaries to recognize the lives we lost to COVID-19.
The lights were also meant to shine a light on the surge in anti-Asian American crimes since the start of the pandemic.
One year ago, California declared a state of emergency because of COVID-19.
"It's such a somber day but we knew we had to do something to mark it," said Tam Nguyen, co-founder of Nailing It For America.
So far, coronavirus has killed more than 53,000 people in California, surpassing the total number of U.S. military causalities from the Vietnam War.
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"Being Vietnamese-American and a member of Little Saigon Orange County's community, this 53,000 number is very significant and etched in history," Nguyen said.
One by one, volunteers set out luminaries at Fountain Valley Sports Park - hundreds of them.
"We want to shed light on not only the COVID-19 victims but sadly and tragically the rising number of hate crimes against Asian Americans," Nguyen said.
The surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans, especially seniors, has been happening since the start of the pandemic and its suspected origins in Wuhan, China.
"I think of my parents, they're in their 80s right now, and I'm just glad they're home and safe," said Bele Nguyen, a Tustin resident.
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"Orange County alone has experienced a tenfold increase in hate crimes that have been reported from 2019 to 2020," Nguyen said.
The event brought people of all races together.
"I believe we should all stand together as a human race and not be hateful with one another," said Joyce Sanchez, a resident of Orange.
The luminaries formed the words "Stop Asian Hate" along with a heart.
Instead of lighting candles, those attending the ceremony were asked to show an animated image on their phones that read: "Never Forget" written in English and Vietnamese.
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