For Edward Lujan, the Gilroy Garlic Festival was a rite of summer, a community event that he had been a part of since he was 14. For the past 25 years, he volunteered at the festival, helping with maintenance or garbage collection and fundraising for the Gilroy High School baseball and basketball teams. In his high school years, the festival offered a chance to hang out with friends; in the years since, it had become the place where everyone reunited and caught up with one another.
“Everybody comes back,” he says. “It’s a community effort and a big time for Gilroy to shine.”
That all changed on July 28, 2019, when a gunman opened fire on the festival, killing three people and wounding 12 others.
Lujan had spent the day volunteering at the festival’s cook-off stage and was returning some items to a vendor’s booth about 20 minutes before the festival’s 6 p.m. closing time. Suddenly he heard explosions. He thought it was fireworks, but when the sounds resumed after a brief pause, he realized it was gunfire. A former EMT and a volunteer firefighter, Lujan instinctively ran toward the shots to help. There, he found a young man, Trevor Irby, who had been shot and was badly injured. Lujan and a friend took turns doing CPR and tried to save Irby, but he died of his wounds. Lujan spent the next four hours with Irby’s fiancée, holding her hand and trying to comfort her.
Lujan’s actions were humane and heroic, and in the hours and weeks to come, he was far from alone. “Everybody came together,” he says. “We knew there would be people in need, and we needed to help as a community. This was our town, our event.”