Santa Paula entrepreneur turns attention to Chinese attack victims

On March 1, Santa Paula resident William Irion was a witness to one of China’s worst terrorist attacks.

Irion has spent much of the past decade shuttling back and forth between Ventura County and Kunming, China. On the evening of Saturday, March 1, he was on a bus headed home when, as he said in an email to me, “I actually saw the ambulances going to the Red Cross hospital as I arrived at my stop. I heard the sirens later. I was warned at midnight by a friend not to go out — that something horrible was happening at the train station.”

That something horrible was a massacre where more than 150 people were hacked at in a brutal knife attack by 10 terrorists. Thirty-three were killed in the attack that has rocked China. Irion emerged from his home the next day and tried to donate blood or provide assistance.

The so-called 3/01 attacks, which took place at 9:20 p.m. local time, are sparking an outpouring of sympathy from the ex-pat community in China. Irion wrote me saying that he and several associates want to “do something positive” in memory of the victims. It might be a memorial, piece of artwork or planting a cherry tree for each victim.

“To me it is not a Chinese thing that happened here Saturday night — it is a human tragedy that could have happened to anyone,” he wrote.  “None of the victims did anything wrong except being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is about people helping people. We all live here.

“Saturday during the day time was a beautiful day in Kunming,” he wrote. “I thoroughly enjoyed the Yuan Tong Temple. It was so peaceful with all the fruit trees in blossom. Just taking in the beautiful scene, which is only there to see for a short period before they are blown away, was wonderful.”

Irion’s entrepreneurial mind turned to the idea of a philanthropic effort in the form of a memorial that might be created out of cherry trees and commemorative prints that could be sold to raise money for the victims.
His quest to find meaning in one of the most vile terrorist attacks in modern China is noble. I hope he keeps me posted about his efforts to find a way to memorialize the 3/01 victims.

Contact Henry Dubroff at

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