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Home | Opinion | Op-Ed: An open letter to El Pasoans and their beautiful town
Photo: City of El Paso

Op-Ed: An open letter to El Pasoans and their beautiful town

One of the first serious conversations I remember having with my mother as a young child followed the question, “What country did we come from?”

She provided a very brief explanation of the political situation in Ireland that turned deadly for my grandfather’s family. They had to leave or be killed. A complete lack of records as to how they came into the country suggests that they may have come here illegally.

Regardless, they became members of their local community, worked HARD, and started what became a very successful business. Many of their descendants have fought for this country in multiple wars and are the kind of people who do their very best to make it one of love and acceptance of others.

I see so much of my own family in the people of El Paso. There’s no way to know how or when people came to be in this country (and, quite frankly, I don’t ask or care), but I see them working hard every day and growing and contributing to our culture and society and economy.

I see families and communities that absolutely love this country and one another.

And let me tell you – no one does the Fourth of July like the people of El Paso. Never have my husband or I seen so many displays of American patriotism leading up to and well after holiday.

On our first 4th here, we sat on our rooftop and watched the unbelievable fireworks display hosted privately by neighbors in every direction. There were fireworks as far as we could see everywhere we turned and it nearly brought us both to tears – to witness so much love and enthusiasm for our country.

Our country was an continues to be built on the dreams and sweat of immigrants. The people of El Paso, however long they’ve individually been here (and let’s be real – many have been here as long if not longer than my own family), are an incredible example of the American Dream done right.

Last year, we left our families and familiar coastlines and moved halfway across the country to this new duty station in El Paso – to a place and environment we’d never had the pleasure of visiting, let alone living in.

Even as a long-time military family, it was initially a little daunting for the both of us. But the people here welcomed our family and made us feel immediately at home in a way we have never experienced.

When strangers kindly smiled, initiated conversation, and found out that we were new, they would stand and talk with us at length about the city and where we could find the best places to eat or go for date nights and where to steer clear from. They’d ask us how we were settling in, how we were doing with the move, and how the kids were handling it.

Local moms who had never met me took time out of their busy days to send me small booklets-worth of information over text about resources and events for myself and children. Neighbors brought over big plates of Texas BBQ and sides as we struggled to unpack in a fixer-upper with two small children.

My father died shortly after we moved to the area and the first (and perhaps only person outside of my husband) to see me really lose it was an unsuspecting employee of a local gas station – she gave me the BIGGEST hug and just let me be human.

Another time, my husband was deployed and every single of one of my children and I were sick and completely exhausted. They really started losing it in the pharmacy line and I just didn’t have the hands or energy to contain them both.

Then, an older couple behind us offered to help. The gentleman picked up my youngest son and played with him – snotty nose and all. His wife and I spoke in broken English and broken Spanish about our families and her grown daughters and how they’d always wanted a son.

That day – when I was totally alone and felt like death and had two hysterical children who felt awful too, they saved my sanity and gave me their empathy.

These are just a couple of the multitude of examples of kindness we experience every day in this city. I could go on and on and on about the kind of people the people of El Paso are.

To me, they’re everything you hope to find in an American community and truly embody the American dream.

What happened is absolutely gutting: to see this amazing group of Americans and immigrants who so thoroughly embody everything it is to BE American and HOPE for the American dream attacked so senselessly – it’s not something that will ever make sense.

It speaks to a horrific level of ignorance some people have about this incredible border town, about how deranged and insecure some people in this country still are about the “other,” and the hard work we have yet to do.

But I’m not sitting here writing to convey some poli-cultural message: I started writing to tell anyone who would listen about how amazing the people of this city are and wanted to finish with a final note to the people of El Paso:

Dear neighbors,

I love you. My family loves you. We are so grateful for you and your culture and your kindness and the way you made us feel so welcome in a place so far from what we once considered home.

Because of you, we have a different and better idea now of what that means. YOU are a testimony of what makes this country great. I’ve seen you and how you embody the spirit of the American Dream.

For generations upon generations, you have and continue to achieve the same thing my family came to this country for: hope, hard work, and success.

And somehow, in that process, you have built the most loving and kind community of people my family has ever been lucky enough to know.

No one ever deserved to be attacked like you were attacked (especially not you), but I know if there’s a people in this country who can come back better and stronger – it’s you.

The child-man who did this speaks only for a small group of very sick, deranged people who have no concept of what being an American means.

His voice will not be the voice that has the last word.

Your hope, love, and resiliency will.

We are with you.

Signed,

An Army Wife in El Paso

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Guest Columnists are residents who feel so strongly about a news event, a story or some other issue, that they decided to put their thoughts to paper - or computer screens. Or they are writers who have made their work available via other channels and we feature their work here, with permission. If you'd like to submit a column, please contact us at news@epheraldpost.com

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9 comments

  1. STOMP OUT GOP WHITE SUPREMACY!

    Beautiful story and well documented about your family Army Wife!
    My grandparents on my mothers side fled to El Paso from the Mexican Revolution.
    My grandfather worked for Prices Dairy as a young boy and retired from Prices Dairy as an old man.
    He was a truck driver transporting cattle and hay! he didn’t know how to speak any English but he understood it well.

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words! God bless you and your family while we continue to pray for all affected by this senseless tragedy. 😍😍😍🙏🙏🙏

  3. Thank you. But as another white American from El Paso, I need to add that the shooter represents no small group. All those that have called for the building of a border wall, supported the criminalization of immigrants and the separation of children, that voted for and continued to support Trump despite his anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican (not to mention misogynist) rhetoric and policies, who have decried “anchor babies,”, or otherwise held and spread the ideas of hate and white supremacy that this man used to justify his horrific act, you are not innocent. Your ideas have played a role in this nightmare and today is a day for all white people and others who believe in those ideas to stop, reflect, and commit to do our part to stop the hate.

    • Wrong. And the real person peddling hate could be you.

      • There is always one like you who is so blind by hate that you could not see it if the shots were pointing in your direction. Open your eyes.

    • This blanket sense of shame put on ALL WHITE PEOPLE for the actions of one person in a nation of 200 million odd white people is exactly the kind of humiliation and browbeating rhetoric which is driving increasing amounts of young white Americans over the edge.

      ALL they hear about in schools, movies, and the media is how awful they are, how their ancestors were awful, and how they’re the only thing standing in the way of some fairytale “perfect” multicultural utopian America. How about legacy America (it’s white people who were once 90% of the country for many generations) starts getting treated with some respect and appreciation for a change?

    • Derrill Rothermich

      So the answer to hate is more hate? How about setting the example that hate should not be our go to. Hate President and others like me just shuts down any attempt to find constructive solutions.

  4. Thank you for the kind words. We are #elpasostronger because of exceptional folks like yourself and your family.

    Sadly, the horrific child-man you speak of got his warped message from the Commander in Chief of the Army that your family serves under. Until that person stops his vitriolic rhetoric, then we will no doubt experience more of these types of tragedies against innocent people.

    Thank you for your service, and I hope that many of your peers will see that the way out of this current darkness is the light of hope and love and not the use of guns and hate.

    • An Army Wife in El Paso

      Thank you for your great kindness and the concerns you detailed in your response.

      I’ve observed that, overwhelmingly, military members and their families are committed to ensuring that the ideals this country was founded upon endure – especially those of freedom and tolerance.

      Most of the people I know have served since Bush or the beginning of Obama’s presidency. Regardless of the political climate in their country, these soldiers signed a contract to show up and would be jailed if they did otherwise. More importantly – they continue to renew their contracts and service to the United States with the support of their families because they deeply believe in the those founding ideals – regardless of who the president is at the time.

      We know that a presidential term only lasts four years and keep hoping for better for our country. A soldier’s dedication is not to a specific person but the American people and founding ideals outlined in our Constitution.

      The first lines of the oath for enlisted and commissioned officers is the same:

      “I ___, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

      Our men and women go off to war with deepest desire that their mission downrange will keep all of the people in the United States safe – including those who have come here to pursue the American Dream. What this child-man did undermines everything we stand for as a group of people. On a less important note, it’s also a direct slap in the face to the those we’ve lost, the living conditions downrange that have been endured, the months and years our children spend without their mothers or fathers, and every hardship we endure as military members and families.

      I was employed in a combat training program as a civillian. Between my husband and I, we have lost over 15 friends, co-workers and former students to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and our losses are not unusual in the military community we come from. We are sadly no strangers to the horrific and lasting cost of violence. As soldiers and spouses, we are shattered that very people we have spent most of our adult lives striving to protect (either directly or by supporting those who act directly) have been so horrifically touched by senseless slaughter.

      The division among American citizens and outspoken intolerance by hate groups negatively and significantly impacts the morale of our soldiers and their families. That’s why we were so emotional when we witnessed those fireworks for the first time just over a year ago. It was an indescribably vivid display of HOW MUCH the people of El Paso cherish this country despite the heartbreaking challenges it continues to face. We had never seen anything like it and it gave us such hope – the kind that continues to sustain us despite difficult days and continued losses.

      Please rest assured that our peers will respond with the same love for the United States, its people and immigrants that compelled them to sign their lives over to its service or support the soldier that has.

      An attack on any citizen or immigrant on American soil attempting to achieve the American dream is an attack of every single one of us and our shared heritage as a country comprised of immigrants and their descendants.

      God bless you, the people of El Paso, and the United States of America. My deepest hope is that we overwhelm hateful and divisive rhetoric, whatever the source, with the love we have for each other and subsequently work together toward a better future, one full of tolerance and empathy, for our the sake of our children and country. How we individually choose to respond to these events and the struggles faced by our nation will collectively become our legacy. May God help us.

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