I've spent the days following the Seal Beach shootings thinking back on my times covering the community as a Sun freelancer while in college and, much later, as a staff reporter and editor at the nearby Long Beach Press-Telegram. I've had a long journalistic and personal relationship with the community, and it breaks my heart that people in one of the last friendly beach towns in Southern California remain stunned and grieving in the wake of the worst mass murder in Orange County history.
Most of my earlier memories of Seal Beach are positive, and I want to keep them that way. I learned to surf (not very well) in the unusually warm waters off the jetty. I celebrated my daughter's third birthday at the playground next to the pier. My father-in-law had his retirement party at a Main Street restaurant.
These memories and others can't black out the recent shooting, but I hope they do some day. I want to always think of Seal Beach for what it is — charming mom-and-pop stores run by actual moms and pops, great seafood restaurants, mild waves, earnest people, amazing schools and walkable neighborhoods.
After that piece on the lifeguard, the Sun editor at the time, who is still there, seemed to take a shine to me and gave me work. He assigned me to Los Alamitos school board meetings, Seal Beach City Council meetings, Sunset Beach and Rossmoor special district meetings, and crimes and features.
There was also the dreaded Sidewalk Talk feature, where I had to ask people on the street what they thought of a given issue, write down their comments and then take their pictures. That assignment paid $10.
I loathed it not because of the money but because I was embarrassed to walk up to strangers on the street and ask them questions. But it was one of the best-read things in the paper. And it taught me a valuable journalistic skill: how to approach people.