For Randy Park, some of his favorite memories with his mom were of the simpler things: eating sushi with her before she’d go to work each night or giving her a to-go meal when she was too tired to do anything.
Park’s mom, Hyun Jung Grant, 51, was a single mother who dedicated her life to providing for Park and his younger brother. But on Tuesday, she was one of eight people gunned down at three Atlanta-area spas. Six were women of Asian descent.
“She was quite literally the only thing keeping us running … calling us every night to check up on us before she goes to bed, working however long for us that she needed to,” Park, 23, told ABC News’ Juju Chang.
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Now, even as he continues to grieve the horror that unfolded this week, Park has had to harden himself to the new reality he faces.
“I’ve been sheltered and taken care of my whole life, and now I have to do the same for my brother,” Park told ABC News’ Juju Chang. “At night, when I try to sleep, that’s when I just spend my time for myself to process everything. … I’m a train wreck at night when I’m alone. But … anytime I have to be talking to someone or meeting with people and just working on sorting this mess out … I frankly don’t have time to be upset. I have work to do.”
Grant was one of three victims killed at Gold Spa in Atlanta. The shooting occurred just moments before police were alerted to another shooting across the street at 24-hour Aromatherapy Spa, where they found one woman shot dead, and about an hour after a shooting at Young’s Massage Parlor in Acworth, Georgia, where four people had been found dead and one person was injured.
The suspect in the killings, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, has been arrested and is charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the shooting at Young’s Massage Parlor, said on Wednesday that Long “told investigators that he blames the massage parlors for providing an outlet for his addiction to sex,” and that “the crimes were not racially motivated.”
The shooting is the latest in a surge of anti-Asian discrimination since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Park questioned Long’s explanation for the shootings.
“I believe two of the locations were next to each other down the street and the [other] one was in some other county. … Like a good drive away. If you blame it on sex addiction, but you choose to target specifically Asian locations and the victims being mostly of Asian descent, I can’t help but … ask, does that make sense?”
“No, of course not,” he added.
Park said he hopes his brother can “learn to live with what has happened” to their mother. It’s just the two of them living in the United States; the rest of the family is living in South Korea, he wrote on a GoFundMe page that he started Thursday night.
Park said he created the crowdfunding page to raise at least $20,000 for funeral expenses and to pay for one month’s rent at the place in which they’re living. By Friday evening, the fundraiser had reached $1.6 million.
“It’s surreal. Otherworldly,” Park said. He said he hadn’t checked the page since creating it. “To show and to see that all of you guys just want to see my mother put to rest easily and [for] me and my brother just [to] get another start means more than I could articulate in words.”
Park said he hopes other people can appreciate their parents for the sacrifices they’ve made to care for their kids. “They live for you,” he said.
While he said he’s unsure how long it’ll take, he knows that one day he’ll get past the grief. For now, he said that despite people advising him not to speak out, he feels a duty to do so.
“How many years has it been and these things still happen,” he said. “It is difficult and I do feel like I have a responsibility to speak on this. So even if there is a backlash, I understand why, but I think that may point to some sort of tolerance for what’s happening and that’s unacceptable.”