ATLANTA — Families' hearts are still shattered two years after a gunman opened fire at several Atlanta spas, taking the lives of eight. Six of those killed were of Asian descent.
As the anniversary haunts loved ones, they continue to fight for justice and advocate for members of the Asian community.
The family joined Georgia AAPI members Thursday at a news conference reflecting at the two-year anniversary.
Robert Peterson lost his mother, Yong Ae Yue, in the shooting. He cried out Thursday at the podium saying his mother should be standing with him today. He shared a dream with the community of a moment he had with his mother. Peterson was trying to teach her how to play poker before she died in what he called "a violent expression of hatred."
"She would want us to find happiness again. I love you momma and I now do this and work for you," he cried.
His mother was 63 at the time shooting, which happened March 16, 2021.
"My mother was robbed of her voice. Her liberty and her pursuit of happiness was taken from her," Peterson added.
Peterson joined the fight to raise awareness to systemic racism and wants to demand change for safety. He said that the community is "no longer satisfied with thoughts and prayers."
"Today is a day to reimagine and redefine what it means to be Asian in America, to show that we are no longer invisible and quiet. But we are now out front and center, loud and proud," Peterson said.
Peterson said the community is grieving together as a community on Thursday's anniversary.
Michael Webb lost his ex-wife, Xiaojie Tan in the mas shooting. Webb adopted Tan's 10-year-old daughter, Jamie, when they got married in China. He helped raise two daughters of Asian descent.
"I must worry about their [his daughters] safety because they are Asian women," Webb said.
After the 2021 shooting, Webb pledged as an ally to the AAPI community and continues to fight for justice in ending hate crimes against the community.
"I meant it. I'm proud and honored to fight this fight with you," he said.
Webb believes more needs to be done to amend gun control laws in the country regarding mass shootings. He said he is grateful to Asian lawmakers and the AAPI caucus for supporting change after the shooting.
"Folks, we simply have to get our arms around this and we can't give up," Webb added.
More on the case
In March 2021, a gunman walked into three different spas in metro Atlanta and killed eight people. Robert Aaron Long admitted to being the shooter. After shooting five people at Young Asian Massage in Cherokee County, investigators said he drove about 30 miles south to Atlanta, where he shot three women at Gold Spa and one woman across the street at Aromatherapy Spa.
Long plead not guilty in the Fulton County case. The district attorney has previously said she intends to seek the death penalty. He pleaded guilty in his Cherokee County case and was sentenced to life without parole.
As Long's actions move through the criminal justice system, the local community asks that they take some time this week to honor the victims whose lives were cut short.
These are the names of the eight victims:
- Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33
- Paul Andre Michels, 54
- Xiaojie Tan, 49
- Daoyou Feng, 44
- Soon Chung Park, 74
- Hyun JungGrant, 51
- Sun Cha Kim, 69
- Yong Ae Yue, 63