To longtime clients, Salon Meritage was more than a place to get their hair cut and nails buffed.
"It was like a family," said Sally Brayton of Lakewood. "You would walk through the door and Randy would be right there to greet you. He knew everyone by name and just made you feel comfortable. Hairdressers would stay here years and years."
Taped to the quaint Seal Beach salon were photographs of owner Randy Fannin, who was among the victims of Wednesday's shooting rampage that claimed the lives of eight and left one still in critical condition.
At a candlelight vigil on Thursday evening, nearly 1,000 people filled the parking lot of the coastal strip mall where Salon Meritage sits, its windows now shielded by blinds and tarp. Underneath the orange scalloped awning, mounds of flowers and notes of sympathy grew by the hour.
October 14, 2011 | 7:00am
Heidi Horvath, a manicurist at Salon DM located two doors down, recounted the aftermath of the massacre. She was working on a client's nails that afternoon when a woman whose hair was covered in hair dye entered her salon in shock. Once police and paramedics arrived to the scene, Horvath said she walked to Salon Meritage and looked through the window.
"There was elderly lady laying on the ground and paramedics were working on her," she said. "Next to her, I saw a pair of legs. I was really shocked and sickened. He could have come over to our salon and started shooting. It could have been any of us."
Dozens of teenagers attended the vigil to support their friends, Lisa and Laura, whose mother, Michele Fast, was among the victims. Throughout the night, they hugged and sobbed.
According to Lisa's friends, the Fast family did not hear of Michele's death until late Wednesday night.
"[Lisa] just kept saying, 'My mom's gonna make it, my mom's gonna make it," said 16-year-old Maryann Gilkenson. "At around midnight, she texted [a friend] saying her mom passed."
Seventeen-year-old Haley Gorman, who played basketball with Laura at Los Alamitos High School, described Michele as "the sweetest person alive" with "not a mean bone in her body."
"It's just unreal," she said.
Lisa was not at the vigil, but 17-year-old Gracie Kaub saw her earlier that day. "She was just in shock," Kaub said. "She said it's not gonna hit her until she wakes up her mom's not there."
All day on Wednesday, Long Beach resident Lanny Vilensky waited for news on Christy Wilson, the daughter of a friend and colleague.
"Every minute that clicked on and on, you just knew it wasn't good," he said.
Wilson, a Lakewood mother of three who worked at the salon, was among those dead.
"How do you deal with something like this?" Vilensky asked. "It's not like a traffic accident or illness. It was one individual who ruined so many lives in a short amount of time. It can happen at any time, any place. We have no control."
Still sitting in the parking lot was the white Acura Infinity that belonged to Victoria Buzzo
, another victim. Friends adorned the car with candles, flowers and a note on the dashboard that read, "We love you, Buzzo."
Years ago, Horvath worked with Buzzo. She said she remembers "her beautiful red hair, her amazing laugh with that special cackle and that red lipstick."
"She had an incredible sense of humor," Horvath said.
Jo Follweiler of Los Alamitos had been a client of Buzzo's for 10 years. "We talked about our families and gossip in the community," Follweiler recalled. "She was tough and brassy, but sweet. She was like a mother hen. Man, I'm gonna miss her."
On the sidewalk, a microphone was set up for people to share words of support and encouragement. One woman sang "Amazing Grace." Another led the crowd in the Lord's Prayer. Many spoke of the strength and closeness of the Seal Beach community.
, whose sister was victim Christy Wilson
, tearfully stated, "You have to tell your loved ones that you love them every day."