In life, Carlos and Marcela Franco were linked to Margarita Gomez — three of the five victims murdered in the June 7 Santa Monica shooting rampage — through Santa Monica College as well as by the fact they all attended St. Anne Church on Colorado Avenue.Carlos, 68, had been a groundskeeper at SMC for 22 years. Marcela, his 26-year-old younger daughter, had just bought her books for a summer school course to speed up her graduation as a senior psychology major at Cal State Dominguez Hills. And Margarita, 68, collected cans, bottles and other recyclables on campus often twice a day, giving some of the money to the blue-collar parish predominately serving Latinos. In death, the three were buried and entombed, respectively, at Holy Cross Cemetery and Mortuary in Culver City. And, in between, funeral Masses were celebrated at two churches on distinctly different sides of the ocean-front city.“Why do these things happen if God does love us?” asked Father Pedro Cobe√±as, associate pastor, in Spanish, during his June 21 homily at St. Anne’s, referring to the tragic death of Margarita Gomez. “However, it’s not God’s fault that things like this happen. So this doesn’t mean we’re giving up our faith. We have to renew our faith so that we can have the hope that Margarita is up by God’s side in heaven.” More than 300 people, sitting on metal folding chairs in the open-sided shrine structure, were cooled by a distant ocean breeze during the hour-long liturgy. The humble altar was in front of the signature flagstone grotto, framed by a leafy ivy arch. And in front of the altar by the paschal candle rested the casket draped with a white cloth. A middle-aged man at a portable organ provided the singing and accompaniment. Father Cobe√±as continued, “The sad part is that we are left here,” standing near the front row of chairs, gesturing with both arms. “And the things that happened in the past and how they came about, we have to let them go. We have to suffer through them, but we have to let them go and renew our faith. “Maybe you knew Margarita or maybe you knew her children, her grandchildren, her whole family? In solidarity, I ask you to light some candles and put out some flowers, but not the type of candles that will burn out or flowers that will dry up. Instead, you can give more love to your children or a significant other. You can go visit somebody who’s sick or just be kinder to the people around you. And that will blossom into a beautiful bouquet of flowers.”‘Extraordinary’ loveTwo days before, Archbishop José Gomez was the principal celebrant of the funeral Mass for Carlos and Marcela Franco at St. Monica Church near Seventh Street and California Avenue. The pastor, Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson, had offered to host it at the bigger church (St. Monica’s has nearly 9,000 registered families compared to St. Anne’s 1,400) to accommodate the expected large crowd that, indeed, filled the marble-columned nave with more than 1,000 people. Male and female soloists, accompanied by a small group of musicians — including a violinist — provided the sacred music for the two-hour eucharistic liturgy.“Just spending some time after that horrendous act a week ago last Friday, the most extraordinary thing that I can say about this family would never be enough,” remarked Msgr. Torgerson, coming down from the sanctuary to stand beside the two parallel caskets. Looking directly at the surviving relatives, he said in a softer voice, “You’ve got spirit and love and gentleness, and a largesse that’s just extraordinary.”When he told the family he was going to visit the home of the alleged killer to pray with his parents, the priest was totally taken back when the Francos readily agreed, “That’s exactly what you need to do.”“That’s extraordinary,” he said. “This family has somehow received this precious gift, a gift of healing and a gift of reconciliation. And I told them, ‘I know you’re in the process of grieving and I know it’s going to take a long while, but you’ve become something special. And I don’t know how to honor and respect you.’” Quick but deadly rampageOn June 7, after allegedly killing his father, Samir, 55, and older brother Christopher, 25, and then setting their Santa Monica house on fire, 23-year-old John Zawahri, dressed in black military-like fatigues and — armed with a semiautomatic assault rifle and .44 caliber revolver — wounded the female driver of a sedan. Next, he carjacked a Mazda hatchback and ordered driver Laura Sisk to keep calm and take him to Santa Monica College. On the way, he fired front to back at a Santa Monica Big Blue bus, blowing out windows and sending passengers to the floor. No one, however, was seriously hurt. The same was true for other rounds Zawahri fired at random locations.It was at a college parking lot that he sprayed a red Ford Explorer with bullets, killing its driver, Carlos Franco. Shots also hit daughter Marcela, who died two days later when she was taken off life support at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Then Zawahri got out of the Mazda, letting the driver go free, and a little past noon ran onto the campus, where he shot and killed Margarita Gomez near the front of the city college’s library. She was the fifth and last victim to die. When the gunman then went into the library, shooting at students and faculty members, police followed and killed him. All of this life-shattering carnage along a mile-long path in Santa Monica took only 13 minutes. Salt of the parishIt’s probably understandable that most of the media’s attention focused on Carlos and Marcela Franco. The father-daughter angle was hard for journalists to resist. But Margarita Gomez also had a family, two sons, Rafael and Gabriel Torres, and grandkids.The retired woman, who grew up in Mexico, lived almost 30 years in Santa Monica. She worked for a ceramics company for nearly two decades, but received a very little pension. So she collected cans and bottles to help pay the rent and other necessities. Still, she regularly gave to charities like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and locally to St. Anne Church.Father Mike Gutiérrez got to know Margarita when he was St. Anne’s pastor from 1999 to 2009. He remembered “Margaret” being active in the parish, including donating money she made from recycling. “I was in shock when I found out,” Father Gutiérrez, now pastor of St. John the Baptist in Baldwin Park, told The Tidings. “People like her, they’re really the salt of the earth of the parish. That’s what made St. Anne’s what it is because of women like her. People who are active, but kind of quiet, simple. They love their church, love their faith. That describes her.” Father Gutiérrez said he was appalled to learn the Santa Monica gunman used an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle in the deadly shootings and had magazines holding 1,300 rounds of ammo. It was the same gun that 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 20 students and six staff members with at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, last December. “I know gun advocates will say it’s a great gun and everything, but it’s getting into hands that are causing mayhem right now,” he pointed out. “And that’s where you have to put the common good. I’ve buried a lot of young people who have been the victim of semiautomatic weapons, either in ‘drive-bys’ or ‘walk-ups.’ And out of respect for them, it’s time to control these guns.” Learning from martyrs Towards the end of his homily at St. Monica’s, Msgr. Torgerson called Carlos and Marcela Franco “martyrs,” and urged the congregation to not let their blood be shed in vain. “When we look especially at this horrific act of violence in our city, what is it that we have not learned but what will help us?” he asked. “What will make us a little better? A better college? A better church? A better community? A better family? What is that moment that can transform us, so it’s not just something in our head, but it’s something in our heart?“I believe when something like this happens — if we just take and receive it, not explain it or understand it because we can’t — but if we can somehow see in it the presence of God, that even in the most horrendous act of human behavior our God is there. And what God does, I think, is to engage us so that we treasure our families a little more.”After a moment, the veteran pastor, almost shouting now, declared, “We should be shepherds! We must go out to the extremities of this city, of our college, of our community and just one by one, you and I, gently and with respect change the life of this world.”Two days later at St. Anne’s, Father Cobe√±as urged the congregation to see the terrible misfortune the way Margarita Gomez would if she was alive. “Life continues, and you can’t say, ‘I don’t want to eat’ because you have got to move on,” he said. “Life doesn’t stop only because she is not here. We have to walk together and have faith and other visions of life in our future. That is what she would want.“So you shouldn’t think that Margarita is now sad,” the priest implored. “She will be happy in heaven if you can offer up something for her today. That will make her happy and continue to live in joy for eternity.”