Photo by Johnny Yturales | El Paso Herald Post
As the community pauses to remember and reflect on the first anniversary of the August 3, 2019 Walmart massacre, we will share their stories and comments here.
***Remembering August 3 – Meg Juarez, Community Safety Program Supervisor for Civic Life, shares her personal story
As the day approaches, I think to myself: “Wow, it’s been a year and I’m still in shock, unable to process the immense pain and loss in so many ways.”
August 3rd, 2020 marks the first anniversary after the tragic racist terrorist attack at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. A white supremacist shot and murdered 23 people and injured many others. My father was the oldest among those who lost their lives, and at 90 years old was vibrant and healthy. My 88-year-old mother was shot and is still recovering after numerous surgeries and weeks in the ICU. The entire El Paso community was shaken to its core. There are so many stories. Stories of love, resilience, sorrow and trauma—all of these stories matter and together they tell a bigger story and paint a collage; one of a reality that immigrants, Native nations, and people of color have been experiencing in this country for generations.
The stories of love and resilience are mostly about communities coming together to help one another heal in the aftermath of terror and violence fueled by white supremacy. Also, about how so many immigrants and refugees have come to this country, worked hard, struggled, persevered, and contributed to making this country great, within a complex history of settling Native lands.
Communities have the power to heal when they are connected and see each other as human beings who are interdependent. I will forever be grateful for how my community came together, embraced me and my family, and was present to help in any way they could. In my Portland neighborhood, friends and neighbors organized fundraisers in collaboration with some of our local neighborhood businesses—donating time, food and services. They hosted gatherings for people to come together, as the community also was shocked by the horror of the events and how now they had a connection to someone who was directly impacted—the degrees of separation getting smaller. The love and caring that my community showed me and my family, whether it was providing food or companionship, or watering my plants while I was in Texas helping care for my mother; it all meant so very much in the aftermath of such trauma.
My work community at the City of Portland too was so supportive and I will forever be grateful for the support of all my colleagues. To all those who donated leave time, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Resilience is something that my parents embodied as immigrants in this country. My cousin, who spoke at my father’s funeral, said it well: “My Tio (uncle) made this country great!” He recounted how my father immigrated to the United States from Mexico, worked so very hard (working for the railroad, and ultimately becoming a very skilled and talented welder/ironworker), and made this place his home with his family, raised his kids and, yes, made America great like so many immigrants have done.
Photo of Meg standing between her two parents with her arms around them both and smiling at the camera.
Photograph of Meg smiling while embracing her mother and father, Martha and Luis Juarez.
My parents, Luis and Martha Juarez, were married 70 years, raised seven children and have 20 grandchildren. They took care of each other, provided companionship for one another and were always there for their family, their neighbors, and their friends. On that fateful morning of August 3rd, they were simply tending to their errands as were all of the other innocent victims going about their day. My father was a kind, gentle and very loving person. I vividly recall witnessing people being mean or rude to my dad and he would say to me, “you never know what someone is going through.” He truly embodied compassion. On that day, as a white supremacist who was intent on killing Mexicans opened fire on innocent people and as the terror of loud gunfire resonated throughout the store, my father held my mother’s hand tightly and calmly said to her “no tengas miedo” (don’t be afraid). My mother shared this over and over while recovering at the hospital—these were my father’s last words to her.
My mother is slowly recovering physically and emotionally. The rod in her arm is still painful and a daily reminder of the horrific event. She deeply misses her partner of 70 years. All of our lives changed forever in so many ways, almost too many to mention here. The pandemic has posed even more challenges and my mother feels isolated a lot of the time, even though she has wonderful neighbors and family who check on her.
Photo of a person wearing a t-shirt with a illustration of Texas and a heart and words: El Paso StrongMy parents lived within very modest means, but they were rich in social capital. In just one example, their neighbors across the street launched a fundraiser through their small home-based business making t-shirt designs. They created a special design just for the purpose of this fundraiser with the “El Paso Strong” message, and giving all proceeds to my mother.
When we expressed our gratitude to her neighbors, they said, “This is the least we can do. Your parents were like our very own grandparents. When our parents passed away, they took such good care of us, bringing us homemade food for weeks!” Building community is so important to resiliency. Quoting author Zach Norris in, We Keep Us Safe, “Safety is not tied to our capacity to watch our neighbors, but rather based on our capacity to truly look out for one another. There is no doubt in my mind that we are safer when we act together than when we let ourselves be divided.”
This traumatic event that impacted my family is just one more example of the racist-fueled violence that many communities of color continue to experience in this country. Racism is a public health crisis. Across the country, local and state leaders are declaring racism a public health crisis. These are important first steps to advance racial equity and justice, but we need to go further by investing in community wellbeing. I’m hopeful that Portland too will join other cities that are naming racism as a determinant of health.
Thank you for this opportunity to share my story.
***TTUHSC El Paso Students, Alumni Still Affected by Aug. 3 Mass Shooting
Many El Pasoans will never forget where they were on Aug. 3, 2019 when they heard about a mass shooting unfolding at an East-Central El Paso Walmart. The incident claimed the lives of 23 innocent victims and injured more than two dozen others.
For Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso students working in local hospitals that day, the incident became a life-changing event. More than 20 students helped treat gunshot-wound victims at both Del Sol Medical Center and University Medical Center of El Paso.
As part of their education, students from the Foster School of Medicine and the Hunt School of Nursing routinely complete clinical rotations at various teaching hospitals throughout the city. On that day, their priorities shifted from learning to saving lives.
Veronica Ruiz, a 2019 graduate of the Hunt School of Nursing, was one semester away from completing her nursing education when the shooting occurred. Working her clinical rotation at UMC that day, she remembered the entire staff was in shock when they first heard the news; however, they quickly jumped into action and prepared to save as many lives as they could.
“It was terrifying for everyone,” Ruiz said. “Having people coming in with these wounds – because they weren’t your typical gunshot wounds. It was terrifying not knowing when the end would come, because we didn’t know what we were facing.”
Esai Barrios, another 2019 graduate of the Hunt School of Nursing, had just finished assisting with the operating room’s first patient of the day at UMC. He was talking with colleagues when an attending physician ran down the hall telling them to get to the emergency room because there had been a shooting.
Barrios described the moment as “bone-chilling” as he realized it wasn’t a regular case of gun violence.
“As soon as we walked into the ER, we saw people working together to prepare for the victims to arrive,” Barrios said. “I looked at my colleague and once I saw her teary-eyed, that’s when it felt real. That’s when I realized it was more serious than I thought.”
After checking on family and friends, Christian Castro, who was starting his third year at the Foster School of Medicine, drove to UMC knowing he had to help in any way possible. He hoped his recent work in the trauma bay would be useful.
“I was surprised at how many health care providers were already there. There were doctors ranging from trauma surgeons and general surgeons, to orthopaedic surgeons and emergency physicians,” Castro said. “The next few hours were unlike anything I had ever experienced, even though I had been working in the trauma bay for the previous two weeks.”
Though a year has passed, the memory is still very fresh for Castro, who’s entering his final year of medical school this summer. He hopes to become a surgeon so he’ll be in place to save more lives in the future.
“I know it’s been a year, but it doesn’t feel like that. I think about that day often. I’m an El Pasoan – those events don’t happen in our city, to the people we know and the people we care about,” Castro said. “What sticks out to me was how a city that’s never experienced something like this was able to respond. I still think about all the doctors and nurses and how they were prepared for that day. In medical school you always prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Unfortunately, the worst happened but we were prepared for it.”
Ruiz will always remember how students and medical professionals worked as a team. She carries that lesson with her now as a registered nurse serving on the front line in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at UMC.
“I’m grateful for how involved TTUHSC El Paso is in the community. After Aug. 3, the faculty allowed us to stay at UMC and help. They didn’t have to, but they felt it was necessary for us, even as students, to stay there and help,” Ruiz said.
The memory is still traumatic for Barrios, but he’s taken what he learned that day and at the Hunt School of Nursing, and applies it to help his patients. He graduated in December 2019 and is a registered nurse working in the Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit at UMC.
“I’m still dealing with it emotionally,” Barrios said. “There are still instances where I have to pull myself aside and say, ‘You went through it, you were just a student at the time, but now you’re a nurse and you’re giving back.'”
***UMC Designates Special Area For Staff, Remembering Aug. 3
University Medical Center of El Paso is recognizing the many healthcare providers and workers who cared for wounded patients resulting from the Aug. 3, 2019, mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart with CARES Place, an area designed to inspire reflection.
It has been one year since a lone gunman went into an El Paso WalMart, shooting, killing and wounding dozens of people. On that day, hundreds of employees from UMC, El Paso Children’s Hospital, Texas Tech Physicians, and El Paso Health responded. They saw injuries that day unlike typical injuries a hospital sees in is emergency room.
Today, as a show of gratitude for helping all of the victims, they have a place to get away from the work center and reflect, recharge. The area was designed and produced as a result of the impact that the shooting tragedy had on all hospital staff. CARES Place is dedicated to them, in their honor, on this day, for their commitment and service.
“It’s something special for our teams,” said Jacob Cintron, UMC President & CEO. “When major tragedies call on immediate response from healthcare workers, we sometimes need to remember that these events can be hard on them as well.”
CARES Place features new wooden benches, trees and open, private space. “Too often we have such commitment toward our work that we forget about caring for ourselves,” said Lorena Navedo-Sosa, UMC’s Chief Administrative Officer.
ALSO: UMC released a special video regarding the Aug. 3, 2019, tragedy; Click here to view the video.
***Congresswoman Escobar Statement on the One-Year Anniversary of the Attack Against El Paso
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16) issued the following statement on the one-year anniversary of the domestic terrorist attack that killed 23 and injured 22 at the Cielo Vista Walmart in El Paso, Texas:
“One year ago, our community and the nation were shocked and heartbroken by the horrific act of domestic terrorism fueled by racism and xenophobia that killed 23 beautiful souls, injured 22, and devasted all of us.
“Today will be painful for El Pasoans, especially for the survivors and the loved ones of those who were killed, but as we grieve and heal together apart, we must continue to face hate with love and confront xenophobia by treating the stranger with dignity and hospitality.
“El Paso families have the right to live free from fear, and I will continue to honor the victims and survivors with action; fighting to end the gun violence and hate epidemics that plague our nation.”
In memory of André Pablo Anchondo, Jordan Kae Anchondo, Arturo Benavides, Jorge Calvillo Garcia, Leonardo Campos Jr., Maribel Hernandez-Loya, Adolfo Cerros Hernández, Sara Esther Regalado Monreal, Guillermo “Coach Memo” Garcia, Angelina Silva Englisbee, Maria Muñoz Flores, Raul Estrada Flores, Gerhard Alexander Hoffmann, David Alvah Johnson, Luis Alfonso Juarez, Maria Eugenia Legarreta Rothe, Ivan Manzano, Gloria Irma Marquez, Elsa L. Mendoza, Margie Reckard, Javier Amir Rodriguez, Teresa Trinidad Sanchez Guerra, and Juan De Dios Velazquez.
***Sen. Rodríguez Statement on Anniversary of August 3rd Tragedy
State Senator José Rodríguez has released the following statement on the first anniversary of the August 3rd El Paso mass shooting:
On August 3, 2019, a young man filled with hate drove to El Paso, with a rapid-fire rifle in the trunk, to commit mass murder. He took 23 lives, and changed countless others. It was a tragically familiar event – another in a long line of mass killings – yet with a specific purpose. He wanted to kill Latinos, because his mind was poisoned by anti-immigrant hate perpetuated by the President and other leaders in recent years. He sat in the parking lot watching shoppers, many of whom were there for back-to-school supplies. Then he got out of the car, grabbed his weapon, and began shooting.
No community, anywhere, is immune from the horror of gun violence. Our country, despite its hard-won progress in securing civil rights for all, is not immune from the virus of racism.
Our city, state, and country have a long way to go towards eradicating gun violence in our communities. We must enact common sense and comprehensive gun reform legislation, including requiring background checks for all gun sales, creating Extreme Risk Protective Orders, and investing in community-based violence intervention programs. The proliferation of firearms, along with people’s readiness to use them, perpetuates gun violence and the ensuing trauma.
Because of the pandemic, we do not have the opportunity to mourn, reflect, and gather in person. However, we are together as a community as we mourn the lives lost that fateful day, reflect on the past year, and work to find meaning in tragedy. My office has compiled several lists with 23 actions each, honoring those who were senselessly killed a year ago today. These are actions that we can take individually and collectively to honor family and community, and work for peaceful change.
As we continue to heal from the tragic events of Aug. 3rd, we should continue to remember and honor the innocent lives that were lost. Their loss leaves a void in our community, but their legacy as Paseños from both sides of the border will live in perpetuity.
Through resiliency, constructive dialogue, and our common bond as border residents, we will continue to fight against intolerance and hatred. Together, we stand united in hope and determination to effect change. We will continue to be a welcoming community. We are El Paso Strong.
***Joe Moody: One Year Later
At the time this is being sent, it’s been one year to the minute since unthinkable tragedy was visited on our city. El Paso Matters just published my personal experience and thoughts on the shooting and what we’ve gone through since then. Here’s how the piece starts:
There isn’t an El Pasoan anywhere who can’t tell you where they were and how they felt on August 3, 2019 after the massacre at the Cielo Vista Walmart. I was at church preparing for a retreat, discussing community and how to reflect love within it. I’ll never forget the surreal disconnect-amid the Good News came the bad news, the worst news, the unimaginable that was somehow real and right here in our hometown.
But I’ll also never forget April 26, 2020.
I was packing boxes as my family prepared for a coming move, thinking about whether I’d made the box I was working on too heavy, when I glanced at my phone and saw that Coach Memo had died. I’d heard his story a hundred times since the shooting. He was one of the first targeted as he stood in front of the store trying to raise money for youth sports. He was a father, husband, and devoted teacher who’d touched countless people. He was a fighter who’d clung to life in intensive care for nine long, painful months. And now he was gone.
I go on to talk about how we got here and where we can go next. I end it this way:
Another colleague of mine, the inimitable Harold Dutton, Jr., once said: “If they don’t respect us, they’d better expect us.” It was a call for bold action in a different circumstance than we face today, but it resonates with me because what we’re facing demands bold action from El Paso and other border communities.
We’ve been disrespected for too long, and we must insist on respect-not just for ourselves, but for everyone. Healing from the adversity of August 3rd and a history of subtler violence can mean taking our turn to set the table, one finally big enough for every Texan.
In this incredible time, Texas should expect El Paso strength, El Paso love, and El Paso leadership.
As with so many things, the journey–like the one we’re all going through after the violence our community experienced–is at least as important as where we begin and end, so I hope you’ll take the opportunity to read the piece. By doing that, you’re also providing critical support to local El Paso journalism.
The thing that’s true above all else on this somber day is the thing the shooting utterly failed to take away: we’re one El Paso. I stand with each and every one of you and always will. I love this city
Joe Moody, State Representative | District 78
***El Paso State Delegation Reflect on the One Year Anniversary of the August 3rd Walmart Shooting
***Cornyn Honors El Paso’s Resilience on First Anniversary of Shooting
Today on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) remembered the horrific shooting in El Paso one year ago today.
Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s remarks about the bill today are below, and video of his remarks can be found here.
“One year ago a gunman stormed an El Paso Walmart and opened fire. Forty six people were shot, twenty three tragically died, and the devastation in this tight-knit community was beyond imagination.”
“The heartbreak and confusion quickly turned to rage when we learned that this out-of-town shooter was a white supremacist whose crime could only be described as domestic terrorism. As my good friend El Paso Mayor Dee Margo has said many times over the last year, we will not let this evil define us.”
“When I visited El Paso the day after the shooting, I saw the makeshift memorial that was created to honor those who died. On that first day, the collection of photos, flowers, and mementos was relatively small, but by the time I came back three days later, it had grown to over half a mile.”
“As we remember this anniversary amidst a pandemic, there won’t be groups of strangers hugging, crying, or holding hands like I witnessed in the days following the shooting. Instead, we’ll have socially distanced memorials like the vigil held yesterday that will allow El Pasoans once again to prove that hate will not win.”
“El Paso [is] a border community that has looked hate in the eye and unequivocally chosen strength, grace, and love for one another.”
***Message from Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera regarding the 1-year anniversary of the Attacks on El Paso*
Dear EPISD Community,
One year ago, El Paso was jarred by an act so hateful and deliberate that it shook us to our core. A white supremacist, with no understanding or regard for our peaceful Sun City, drove hundreds of miles with the intent to kill individuals because of the color of their skin and to stop — in his words — a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Twenty-three people died, dozens were injured and the United States was forever changed.
However, on that day, and the days that followed, El Paso showed unprecedented strength, determination and resilience. We were knocked down, but we were in no way defeated. The attacker’s intent to weaken our beautiful city and culture unequivocally backfired. Instead of cowering, El Pasoans did what they have done for generations: fight back, thrive and protect our community.
Our #ElPasoSTRONG response reminds me of Dr. Martin Luther King’s words: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Minutes after the shooting, EPISD was at the forefront of the response to the tragedy. EPISD police officers were amongst the first responders on the scene at Walmart. And just hours after the shooting, EPISD began the process of transforming nearby MacArthur Intermediate School into an Emergency Reunification Center. Dedicated staff kept MacArthur open for nearly 72 hours and turned our classrooms into shelters, counseling facilities and grief centers. Our employees worked around the clock to provide meals and private meeting rooms to first responders and the families of survivors and victims. In addition, EPISD students mobilized quickly to raise funds, donate blood and build memorials. Our students, parents and employees should feel proud to be part of the #EPISDPROUD community .
The August 3 attack will always be a reminder of the fragility of life and the hard work required to fight racism, create cultural unity and appreciate our differences. Let’s continue on a path to recovery by embracing the opportunities to learn more about one another and work towards a peaceful and meaningful coexistence regardless of race, faith, ethnicity, gender identity, creed, sexual orientation or nationality. El Paso has been a beacon of hope for generations, proudly claiming the first school district (EPISD) and major university (Texas Western, now UTEP) in the American South to desegregate following Brown vs Board of Education. El Paso also is the home of the first chapter of the NAACP in Texas. And while imperfect, our welcoming and inclusive culture on the Border can help us model a better future for the entire country.
Let’s remain El Paso Strong and EPISD Proud as we continue to fight for peace, love and understanding. Let us also remember Dr. King’s words “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Yours in remembrance of the August 3 victims and survivors,
Juan E. Cabrera
***Congresswoman Escobar and LULAC Honor Heroes and Look Ahead on the One-Year Anniversary of El Paso Shooting
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is remembering the victims of the tragic Walmart shooting that claimed the lives of 23 people and left another nearly two dozen wounded August 3, 2019 and examining legislation being proposed in Congress to prevent gun violence.
Domingo Garcia – LULAC National President
“The attack in El Paso wasn’t just a lone gunman opening fire on those ‘Mexican invaders’ as he called them. His actions were part of the larger attack against Latinos in our country being fueled daily by the poison of racial hate. LULAC will not allow the lives of these innocent victims to have been lost in vain by allowing their names and faces to fade. We call out the cowards who use ethnicity or race for political gain and turn ignorance into deadly acts against our community.”
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar – Texas’ 16th Congressional District
“On August 3rd, the nation will remember and honor the 23 beautiful souls murdered and 22 injured in a horrific act of domestic terrorism against El Paso and the Latino community. As El Pasoans continue to heal and confront hate with love, I commend LULAC for joining in the fight against racism, xenophobia, and our nation’s gun violence epidemic.”
Sindy Benavides – LULAC
“Our hearts and thoughts are with El Paso today, especially the families directly impacted. As a Latino civil rights organization, we will continue fighting racial hate and white supremacy. We condemn political rhetoric who target communities based on their ethnic origin, race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, nationality, and gender. We know words matter and that they can lead to actions like the shooting in El Paso one year ago. Not one more generation must endure it and not one more father, mother, son or daughter must die and be grieved in America because of violence based on the color of our skin. We remember El Paso, we celebrate the lives of those taken from us and vow never to be silent.”
***El Paso Community Foundation statement on August 3rd.
A year ago, El Paso faced a point of inflection. Forever, we have risen above the fray of politics and criticism.Those who don’t know us also didn’t know that they were crystallizing our relationship with each other, strengthening our collective identity as El Pasoans, Juarenses; residents of a border community that is dynamic and alive.
August 3rd, 2019, a hate monger murdered 23 and injured 25, and tested our identity. We did something extraordinary in the wake of that act of racist terrorism. We did rise up.
We came even closer together. We cared for the victims we knew and those we didn’t. We gave blood and money and tears and sweat and it was returned in the knowledge that we did not fold under a fool’s trigger. However you choose to commemorate today, know that the actions of our community far eclipsed the action that started it. We grieved together with people who suffered profoundly, we created scholarships for orphaned children and their children, and we told our story more poignantly than we ever have: we are united and we are compassionate. We are strong, and because of it, we are proud. I sure am.
Eric Pearson, President/CEO
El Paso Community Foundation