Beach memorial focuses on the victims, not the shooter

By Joe Piasecki

Photo by Maria Martin

Photo by Maria Martin

Beyond the soundbites, statistics and political handwringing that dominated media coverage of the June 12 mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub, there is a much deeper story of lives needlessly cut short — 49 of them.

Deeply affected by the tragedy, longtime Venice Beach resident Joel Shields feels strongly that people need to know more about those who died than just their names and ages. To give himself and others a chance to reflect, Shields framed portraits and short biographies of each of the Orlando shooting victims and displayed them last weekend in the sand along Ocean Front Walk just north of Park Avenue.

“The reality of the shooting is different when you’re actually standing face to face with these portraits and are able to pause and reflect. To look at those faces, those eyes, personalizes it much more than electronic media,” Shields said.

Electronic media has, however, helped spread the word. U2 guitarist The Edge visited the memorial on Saturday and posted a photo to Instagram that got 24,000 likes.

The display is not expected to return to the beach, but Shields hopes to work with organizations that can put the 49 portraits and bios to continued use.