Hundreds of people joined the Blackwell and Muehlberger families at Central Park Friday morning to unveil mosaic-covered obelisks dedicated to Dominic Blackwell and Gracie Muehlberger, victims of the 2019 Saugus High School shooting.
Frank Blackwell, Dominic’s father, told the audience — many wearing “Saugus Strong” shirts and sweaters or shirts with Gracie’s signature “G” and Dominic’s favorite character, SpongeBob — that he wants the community to know his son the way he did.
“I want to remember his bold laugh, his witty comebacks, his silliness, the way he took care of his younger brothers, and remained loyal to his closest friends,” Blackwell said. “I won’t ever see him realize his dreams, to make remarkable life plans or overcome his greatest obstacles. That dream is not for me now, and the pain of that reality is remarkable and indescribable.”
Blackwell encouraged the Santa Clarita community to “reflect, connect and heal” at the obelisks.
“This is your space now. I want you all to know how thoughtfully worked-on these obelisks were, so that we could share the joy of these children with you,” said Blackwell. “If there was going to be a way to keep their spirits shining in this world, we wanted to find a way to share them, to illuminate them, to help us all find our way out of the shadows. And in this space, we hope that you feel surrounded by the love that Dominic and Gracie left behind for us.”
Bryan Muehlberger, Gracie’s father, took to the podium next.
“We will never and must never forget any of them, but this memorial is not about the tragedy and that painful event,” Muehlberger said. “It is about so much more. It is about the very special unique something that came out of this tragedy. It is about the coming together of the city of Santa Clarita — something I’ve never seen or experienced anywhere else.”
The two obelisks each covered in 28,000 individually hand-cut, Italian mosaic glass tiles stood tall behind Muehlberger as he shared the meaning of the imagery on Gracie’s obelisk.
“She always had a smile on her face and love to make people laugh and smile,” he said, also pointing out representations of Gracie’s dog, makeup, favorite Starbucks drink, love of song and dance, and hometown of St. Louis.
“You also see images of waves and the ocean, as she loved going to the beach. The waves also represent the impact she has had in this community and throughout the nation. To the right of that side, you will see a cross, representing her unwavering faith in Jesus. Then you will see her signature ‘G,’ which she used to sign all of her little notes and cards and journal entries, and is now the trademark of the Gracie Strong Foundation.”
Both families shared their thanks with the many community leaders and supporters who made this project possible.
“I would like to thank each and every one of you for your support, your love, and the hard work that went into this by helping turn our vision into a reality and creating something truly special that the entire city of Santa Clarita could see for generations to come,” said Muehlberger.
Among those he thanked were Saugus High School students, Derek Diaz, 17, and Mia Tretta, 16, who helped raise money for their best friends in the aftermath of the shooting.
“When you look at the obelisks, remember that they are more than just an object. They’re a representation of two extraordinary people. People that we should look up to,” Tretta said. “Somebody once told me, ‘Be the things you miss about somebody.’ When I look at these memorials, I will remember to be courageous like Gracie, trying to cheer everyone up. I will remember to be loyal like Dom and have that infectious laugh. I encourage all of you to do the same.”
The Santa Clarita City Council and the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency, which owns the land where the obelisks now stand, added Gracie’s and Dominic’s names to the monument at the entrance of the park earlier this year.
“This memorial plaza will be a place to remember and celebrate Gracie and Dominic. It will be a place of comfort and solace for their families, friends and community members,” said Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste, who emceed the unveiling.