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Locals remember San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre 35 years later

A marble memorial now stands at the location of the massacre as a memory of the innocent lives lost in what was the deadliest mass shooting until 1991.

SAN DIEGO — People throughout the county were remembering a dark day in San Diego’s history on Thursday.  Many who experienced terror and loss the day of the San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre are sharing their memories and thoughts on the 35th anniversary of the tragedy.  

A marble memorial now stands at the location of the massacre as a memory of the innocent lives lost in what was the deadliest mass shooting until 1991. On July 18, 1984, 21 people were killed in what is now called the San Ysidro McDonald's massacre. 

"Life goes on but we never forget,” said Guillermo Flores.  

Flores was 12 years old and out of town at the time when he lost his 11-year-old brother David in the shooting.  

"I was the rough one, he was the sweet one. So maybe that’s why God chose me to stay here because I'm a little bit tougher,” said Flores.  

RELATED: San Ysidro Massacre: Victim shares her story 32 years later

He said his brother, with two friends who were also 11, rode their bikes to McDonald's to get ice cream that fateful day.  

"They were gunned down outside as they were parking their bikes,” said Flores.  

Only one of David's young friends survived.   

Battalion Chief David Connor was among the first firefighters on scene.  

"When we went through the door there was no way to prepare for what we were about to see,” he said.  

Connor says walking into the carnage is a memory that will never go away. 

"What I remember there being was bullet casings – it seemed like thousands,” he said.  

Southwestern College was among those who recognized the anniversary of the massacre with a memorial event Thursday. A 300-square-foot area in front of the site which is now a Southwestern College building became a permanent memorial. Inside the campus Thursday, the San Ysidro community came together to remember the victims. 

After dealing with such loss Flores says to live every day as if it were your last and always put family first. 

"Appreciate your family, your friends” he said. “Before you know it.... you’re gone.”  

The San Ysidro McDonald's shooting is the seventh-deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and was the deadliest mass shooting ever committed in the U.S. at the time. The gunman, who lived roughly 200 yards from the San Ysidro restaurant, was killed by a sniper with the San Diego Police Department. The victims ranged in age from eight months to 74 years old. In addition to the 21 people killed, 19 others were injured.

The 1998 News 8 footage below features future mayor Jerry Sanders who was then police chief sharing his memories of the San Ysidro McDonald’s Massacre 14 years later. Sanders was commander of the SWAT unit on the day of the shooting.  

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