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Home | Tag Archives: el paso shooting

Tag Archives: el paso shooting

Bishop Mark Seitz pens pastoral letter ‘Night will be no More’

Following the concluding Celebration of Mass of the Hope Border Institute’s 2019 Teach-In: Jornada por la justicia, Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz, Bishop of the Diocese of El Paso, signed and released a pastoral letter on the theme of racism and the El Paso shooting which took place on August 3rd, 2019.

“The pastoral letter, entitled, Night Will Be No More, represents a major statement from the Catholic community on the intersecting issues of race, gun violence, racially motivated attacks on Latinos in the United States and the ongoing militarization of the border,” Diocese of El Paso officials shared.

“It will be the first major statement from the Catholic Church on the theme of racism from the perspective of the border and connects the El Paso shooting to historical racism at the border and the recent resurgence of racism against Latinos in the United States,” officials added.

The signing of the pastoral letter will took place in the presence of hundreds of Latino leaders who were in El Paso for the Jornada por la justicia, including the Latinx Catholic Leadership Coalition, an emerging coalition of faith leaders, theologians and labor leaders recently formed in response to recent events at the border.

To read his complete letter on the Hope Border Institute website, click on the link below.

Night Will Be No More | Pastoral Letter to the People of God in El Paso

Pastoral Letter to the People of God in El Paso: On August 3rd, 2019, El Paso was the scene of a massacre or matanza that left 22 dead, injured dozens and traumatized a binational community. Hate visited our community and Latino blood was spilled in sacrifice to the false god of white supremacy.

After two Texas mass shootings, Greg Abbott wants to strengthen a vague network officials won’t discuss

Texas Department of Public Safety officials overseeing a program Gov. Greg Abbott tapped to help halt potential mass shootings say staffing shortages and privacy concerns stand in the way of taking more preventive action against such massacres.

But the department hasn’t specified the current number of analysts participating in what’s called the Suspicious Activity Reporting Network, how potential threats are identified or how the program will work differently with additional public resources.

“I’m confident we’re going to need more resources, particularly analytical resources…Every lead has to be followed up on, we cannot sit on it. It will certainly take resources to do that,” DPS Director Steven McCraw told lawmakers this month.

His comments came during the first meeting of the Texas House Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety Select Committee, which followed Abbott’s issuance of eight executive orders meant to stop future mass shooters. The orders were largely focused on strengthening the Suspicious Activity Reporting Network after the state’s two most recent mass shootings.

Last month, a gunman targeting Hispanic people opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, killing 22 and injuring more than two dozen others. Weeks later in Odessa and Midland, another gunman killed seven and injured 22 others.

“The most significant threat right now is a self-radicalized lone actor using available weapons against soft targets [citizens vulnerable to such attacks] — that’s number one,” McCraw told lawmakers.

The Legislature in 2011 mandated that DPS form a policy council to, among other things, develop strategies for reducing terrorism and “criminal enterprises.” That policy council recommended the creation of the Suspicious Activity Reporting Network, according to DPS’ website.

The Texas Tribune first contacted DPS on Sept. 6 to learn how its Suspicious Activity Reporting Network may address mass shootings. DPS initially did not respond to calls or emails. When a reporter made an unscheduled in-person visit to the agency’s Austin headquarters, a spokesperson said no one could be made available for an interview and asked that any questions be emailed to the department.

DPS officials did not respond to emailed questions until 11 days later, after they learned The Tribune planned to publish a story highlighting their unresponsiveness.

DPS spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger sent a statement to the Tribune that said the agency is currently repurposing personnel from other areas in DPS to support the network. Cesinger also stated that in the past three years, about 2,500 reports have been added to the network and that “multiple instances” have resulted in “law enforcement action.” But it’s not clear what action was taken and how often a report typically leads to thwarted crime.

DPS by late Wednesday had not responded to follow-up questions nor made anyone available for an interview about the network. The Senate’s Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety Select Committee is slated to have its first meeting Thursday.

In his directives, Abbott also ordered DPS to raise the public’s understanding of how suspicious activity reports will help law enforcement identify potential mass shooters. In response to some of The Tribune’s questions about the reports, DPS responded by providing press releases about iWatchTexas, an app and website launched in 2018 that is supposed to be the public-friendly method for reporting suspicious behavior to the suspicious activity network. What happens to those reports — or how law enforcement could use them to prevent mass shootings — remains unclear. Abbott’s office deferred questions to DPS.

Monitoring and standardized guidelines

According to a safety document kept on the Texas Judicial Branch website, the Texas Suspicious Activity Reporting Network’s purpose is to, “create a holistic view of terrorism or crime-related suspicious activity in Texas.” One of the governor’s orders commits “resources” from DPS and his office to increasing the staff at Texas’ fusion centers, which are apparently the backbone of the reporting network.

Each of the eight fusion centers overseen by DPS are located in Texas’ largest cities where analysts evaluate reports of suspicious activity. Fusion centers are state-run information sharing hubs, of which Texas has the second-most in the nation, used to coordinate varying levels of law enforcement against terrorism and organized crime.

Established with the same post-9/11 objective that created the Department of Homeland Security, fusion centers look for indications people are planning criminal or terroristic operations. That includes monitoring online activity and cross referencing with additional law enforcement records. Representatives from each of Texas’ fusion centers make up the policy council that recommended DPS create the Suspicious Activity Reporting Network.

The safety document and McCraw’s testimony this month both indicate that network analysts monitor social media for warning signs. But DPS has not said what additional surveillance is conducted and what information is kept on those deemed suspicious.

DPS uses guidance from the National Counterterrorism Center to determine the credibility and suspiciousness of a report. Abbott’s directives call for standardized guidelines for determining which reports law enforcement agencies should pass on to the network. But DPS has not responded to questions about how law enforcement agencies currently decide which reports to send to the network.

“They’re literally trying to take life and death situations to discern between false complaints, agenda-driven, personality-driven, outright lies, all kinds of issues,” said Charley Wilkison, executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas. “And they’re trying to discern and use their professional experience and training the keep the public safe.”

Wilkison said the network can’t “telegraph everything they see” in real time without causing “immeasurable fear” to the public.

“At some level they’re gonna have to be secretive,” he said.

McCraw described suspicious activity in the hearing as, “Those activities, observable activities, that reasonably indicate that something is occurring that might forewarn either a terrorist event or criminal event.”

In further testimony to the House committee, McCraw mentioned ‘replacement theory’ while discussing the network’s priorities in regard to counterterrorism. Replacement theory or, “The Great Replacement” is a conspiracy theory forewarning the supposed erasure of white European ethnic groups through mass migration from people of color. The idea is well-embraced among white supremacist groups and was a cited motivation in the manifesto of the El Paso shooter.

“The propaganda has proliferated throughout the internet world…And of course, the mass shooter in El Paso took that theory and applied it to Hispanics, so it’s racially motivated domestic terrorism is what we have,” McCraw told lawmakers.

Longstanding concerns over privacy

While McCraw identified staffing as a challenge to the network’s new duties, he said freedom of speech and privacy concerns further limit DPS’ ability to prevent attacks like mass shootings. He also said law enforcement doesn’t have access to as much data as it once did.

“Because some social media companies have been selling the data, there’s companies that are now limiting in terms of what they’ll sell to law enforcement,” he said. “It’s a little more challenging than it was.”

Texas’ fusion centers have a 27-page-long privacy policy supposedly preventing them from collecting information on people solely based on details like religious and political affiliations or race, citizenship and place of origin. Individuals may also request information kept by the fusion centers about themselves to verify accuracy, but there are exceptions if it will compromise an investigation.

In 2008, the American Civil Liberties Union published, “What’s Wrong with Fusion Centers,” a report that highlighted a lack of clear oversight, participation from private companies and excessive secrecy as threats fusion centers pose to civil liberties.

“One of the things that we have not been doing…because of concerns about privacy is proactively looking for threats,” McCraw told the committee.

Author: CARRINGTON TATUMThe Texas Tribune

Disclosure: Walmart has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Macy’s donates $100k+ to El Paso Victims Relief Fund, Offers special shopping experience to first responders

In support of community relief and recovery following the tragic August events in El Paso, Macy’s has donated a total of $100,773 to the El Paso Victims Relief Fund, established by the Paso del Norte Community Foundation.

For immediate support, Macy’s donated $20,000 to the organization in August.

From August 6 through August 20, Macy’s stores throughout the state of Texas offered customers the opportunity to round-up their in-store purchase to the nearest dollar (up to $.99) to benefit the El Paso Victims Relief Fund, $80,773 was raised through the round-up campaign with 100 percent of the funds benefitting victims and their families affected by the tragedy.

Macy’s colleagues will present the total check donation on Monday, September 16 at Macy’s Cielo Vista.

As part of this, Macy’s would also like to recognize the significant contributions of El Paso’s local heroes – the first responders.

Any first responders who arrive at the event between 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. will receive a $25 Macy’s gift card as well as a special shopping experience with a Macy’s Personal Stylist and beauty experts.

Customers will also be able to enjoy light refreshments during the event.

Macy’s officials added that they will “continue to work with the El Paso community to identify meaningful ways to support our neighbors and friends impacted by this tragedy.”

Analysis: The delicate balance of protecting Texans in a state that worships guns

Gov. Greg Abbott’s declaration that words are inadequate and must be met with action signals a turn from politics to policy. He’s better, historically speaking, at the former. What he’s proposing now will require some coalition-building in a divided political culture and with a Legislature riven by scandal.

Abbott had a good legislative session this year, along with his compadres, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. They racked up wins on school finance and property tax legislation, managed a session that didn’t devolve — like the 2017 session — into angry debate over outlawing “sanctuary cities” and regulating access to public bathrooms.

It was a good session, but not one that your grandchildren will read about in their Texas history textbooks. That’s really the nature of state government: It’s more notable in its failures than in its successes, a frustrating setup for politically ambitious people who aspire to fame, glory and maybe even higher office. The list of historically renowned Texas governors is a lot shorter than the history of the state.

But the governance problem of the day — mass shootings — is also deeply political. The governor is clearly feeling the heat. His recent “mistakes were made” apology for throwing matches at the dry straw that is the immigration debate was passive, but it was still an apology. More importantly, it was uncharacteristic for a governor who only rarely admits error.

He followed with a list of “executive actions” that attempt to raise law enforcement attention to and communications about reports of people who might pose threats. He’s promising legislative proposals next week.

The gunfight in Texas government is tired and predictable, and changing its direction would require breaking from party doctrine, particularly on the Republican side. The proof is fresh: In that same successful legislative session this year, the governor asked lawmakers to respond to mass shootings at a school in Santa Fe, near Houston, and at a church in Sutherland Springs, near San Antonio. Lawmakers addressed school safety and mental health, but all of the gun laws approved this year loosened restrictions on their sales, use and possession.

Abbott’s digging for a meaningful response now. Bonnen and Patrick formed a joint committee on “mass violence prevention and community safety.” Five dozen Texas lawmakers wrote a public letter to the governor and held news conferences around the state calling for a special legislative session on guns, with a to-do list of regulatory legislation they couldn’t pass during the regular session earlier this year.

That triggered a cranky response from the governor’s office: “Gov. Abbott made clear in Odessa that all strategies are on the table that will lead to laws that make Texans safer. But that doesn’t include a helter-skelter approach that hastily calls for perfunctory votes that divide legislators along party lines. Instead, the governor seeks consensus rather than division. The Democrats who are part of today’s partisan pitch can be part of the bipartisan legislative process announced yesterday that is geared toward achieving real solutions, or they can be part of politics as usual that will accomplish nothing. Legislating on tough issues is hard and takes time. If Democrats really want to change the law, they need to stop talking to cameras and start talking to colleagues in the Capitol to reach consensus.”

Abbott himself added a tweet to the conversation Wednesday, ending it with, “Legislators can be part of the process or part of the problem.”

Sounds like the beginning of a beautiful friendship, doesn’t it?

And it’s not as though Republican lawmakers would enter a legislative session in partisan lockstep. They’ve got political troubles of their own that have nothing at all to do with firearms.

Immediately after the regular legislative session, Bonnen and state Rep. Dustin Burrows of Lubbock, at the time the chairman of the House Republican Caucus, held an hourlong meeting at the state Capitol with Michael Quinn Sullivan of Empower Texans, an activist and regular source of annoyance for the Republican establishment. Long story short: Bonnen and Burrows said a lot of things that would offend other House members, Sullivan recorded their meeting and has played it for some of those members, and the Texas Rangers are investigating and trying to sort it out.

Whatever the Rangers do, Bonnen — who has only had the speaker’s job since January — has House members looking in their rearview mirrors and trying to decide if they chose the right leader. Calling lawmakers back to town to work on something as contentious as arms and safety regulation is risky and often unproductive, especially on the threshold of an intense election season. Compounding that with an undercurrent of legislative in-fighting and insurrection seems downright treacherous.

Especially if your strength is politics, and not policy.

Author: ROSS RAMSEY – The Texas Tribune

More than football: Franklin, Odessa Permian teams to show act of support in wake of tragedies

The match between the Franklin Cougars and Permian Panthers tonight at Odessa’s Ratliff Stadium will be about much more than just football.

In the wake of the tragedies that struck both communities recently, the two teams plan to unite on the field before kickoff to show support for each other and demonstrate the strength of the two cities coming together during difficult times.

Franklin players on Wednesday rolled out a sign they will present to the Permian team and, one by one signed their name and a message of love and support.  The sign reads “Odessa and El Paso Strong.”

Almost simultaneously, but some 280 miles east, players at Permian — which is still recovering from a mass shooting from last weekend — signed a similar sign they plan to present to El Paso. El Paso was the site of a mass shooting on Aug. 3.

“It’s important that we come together as a community and that they know they aren’t alone,” said senior Ethan Bustillos. “There’s help from other communities and cities to recover.”

The idea for the banner exchange came from an act of support the Franklin team received from the Rio Rancho Cleveland team the Cougars faced last week. At that game, Cleveland players presented a signed banner that read “El Paso Strong” to Franklin captain Andrew Bristol.

“It was kind of a shocker. We’re playing football, which can be a bad blood sport, and it brought more of a bigger picture in my eye. Football is a community … everyone is a part of it,” Bristol said.

“Giving Odessa the banner is going to be meaningful to me because I was the one receiving one last week,” he added. “We know what the Odessa community is going through and we offer our condolences. Hopefully, they hang it as we hung ours from the Cleveland Storm.”

Like Bristol, his teammates were touched by the presentation of the banner. It hangs in the stadium as a reminder that kindness lives on and unites communities.

“It means the world that we can do this for them because when the shooting happened here in El Paso, it brought the community together,” said Franklin corner Michael Buraczyk. “I hope it brings their community together in the same way.”

Quarterback Danny Walther echoed the sentiment of his teammates.

“Last week when we received the banner from Cleveland, it meant a lot to us and we want to do the same for Odessa. We are there to support them.”

Read more about the Franklin v. Permian game from the Associated Press here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Story and photos by Reneé De Santos – EPISD

Texas House Democrats ask Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session after two mass shootings

Democrats in the Texas House are calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to convene a special legislative session to address gun violence — a move designed to place even more pressure on the state’s top GOP official to act in the wake of two deadly mass shootings just weeks apart.

A letter to Abbott was delivered Wednesday morning, hours before the House Democratic Caucus hosted five news conferences across the state to discuss “protecting Texans from gun violence.” The letter, which also included several gun-related legislative proposals, was signed by 61 of the 66 members in the caucus.

“Members of the House Democratic Caucus, for several sessions now, have proposed dozens of specific bills aimed at changing the status quo by making Texans safer through common-sense gun and public safety legislation,” the letter reads.

The caucus requested Abbott include issues such as “closing the background check loopholes” and “banning the sale of high-capacity magazines” in a special session agenda, along with “enacting extreme risk protective order laws and closing existing loopholes in current protective order laws,” “limiting the open carry of certain semi-automatic long guns” and “requiring stolen guns be reported to law enforcement.”

The Legislature does not convene again until 2021; Abbott has the sole authority to call both chambers back to the Capitol before then.

Democrats said Wednesday that waiting another year and a half to address gun violence in the state will endanger Texans.

“This is the kind of thing our constituents are telling us they want us to tackle, and they want us to tackle it now,” state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, said. “We should not sacrifice any more Texas lives simply to accommodate a legislative calendar.”

On top of that, the next session will be bogged down with fights over redistricting, further polarizing the state and reducing the chance for consensus on gun safety legislation, Howard said.

During the press conference, however, a spokesperson for Abbott said released a statement that the governor “made clear in Odessa that all strategies are on the table that will lead to laws that make Texans safer” — but added that did not “include a helter skelter approach that hastily calls for perfunctory votes that divide legislators along party lines.”

“Instead, the Governor seeks consensus rather than division,” Abbott’s spokesperson said in a statement. “The Democrats who are part of today’s partisan pitch can be part of the bi-partisan legislative process announced yesterday that is geared toward achieving real solutions, or they can be part of politics as usual that will accomplish nothing. Legislating on tough issues is hard and takes time. If Democrats really want to change the law, they need to stop talking to cameras and start talking to colleagues in the Capitol to reach consensus.”

Howard countered the statement from Abbott’s office, however, and said as governor and a major leader among Republicans Abbott could build the consensus necessary to get gun safety legislation through both chambers and to his desk.

Over Labor Day weekend, a gunman on a rampage through Odessa and Midland killed seven people and injured 22 others. The tragedy there happened four weeks after a deadly shooting in El Paso that left 22 dead and more than two dozen wounded. The representative who led Wednesday morning’s Democratic press conference, Celia Israel of Austin, said she had been to the El Paso Walmart where the shooting occurred just a week before, and that her family could have easily been caught up in it.

“Our constituents deserve to know the Texas Legislature hears them,” Israel said. “We have security all around us [at the Capitol]” but are “painfully aware” of the danger for many Texans around the state as their go about their daily lives.

As Democrats have repeatedly urged Abbott to call a special session on the matter, the governor — along with other GOP leaders — have formed various entities to help explore long-term responses. After the El Paso shooting, Abbott assembled the Domestic Terrorism Task Force and the Texas Safety Commission.

Abbott also tweeted Monday night that he was considering a proposal to expedite executions of mass shooters. Democrats at the Wednesday press conference declined to comment on the proposal.

And on Tuesday, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced they had formed interim select committees to study “mass violence prevention and community safety.” The committees, the two GOP leaders said, will be tasked with studying and eventually recommending legislative solutions.

Bonnen on Wednesday announced the 13 House members who will serve on the select committee and directed the newly-formed panel to begin studying an array of issues related to gun violence and prevention, such as evaluating “options for strengthening enforcement measures for current laws that prevent the transfer of firearms to felons and other persons prohibited by current law from possessing firearms” and considering “current protocols and extreme risk indicators used to identify potential threats.”

Authors: CASSANDRA POLLOCK AND CHASE KARACOSTAS – The Texas Tribune

Emergence’s Community Recovery Center Therapists prepare for retraumatized residents following Midland/Odessa Shooting

Officials with Emergence Health Network (EHN), are again preparing for local residents who may have been retraumatized by news and coverage of the mass shooting in Midland/Odessa.

EHN, operators of the Community Recovery Center specifically developed to address the mental health care needs of residents in the borderland region following the event on August 3, 2019, stand ready to help once again.

“Our EHN mental health professionals are uniquely qualified to provide care to those affected by traumatic experiences, so as we mark the month anniversary of this heartbreaking incident and hear news of the most recent shooting in Midland/Odessa we know many challenging emotions can resurface or individuals can experience relived trauma,” said Kristi Daugherty, Emergence Health Network, CEO.

“We also know there could be delayed trauma, so as the Local Mental Health Authority EHN is prepared for the long haul.  We have the services and staff in place to help our community heal and the Community Recovery Center is an added resource.”

“Easy access to counseling is vital right now so services offered at the Community Recovery Center are free of charge and if an individual doesn’t want to make an appointment, he or she can just walk in.  We also encourage our community to continue to utilize the Crisis Hotline where they can speak to one of our mental health professionals 24/7,” said Rene Hurtado, EHN Chief of Staff.

Community Recovery Center

8730 Boeing Drive, El Paso, TX

Monday – Friday

9am – 6 pm

To schedule an appointment call: 915-242-0555

EHN Crisis Hotline and Support

915-779-1800

 “Trauma, Resilience and Resistance” Event offers UTEP Community opportunity to Heal

In an effort to help students, staff and community members heal, the University of Texas at El Paso is hosting  “Trauma, Resilience & Resistance,” an interdisciplinary response to the recent gun violence in El Paso.

Gina Nuñez-Mchiri, Ph.D., director of UTEP’s Women’s and Gender Studies program and associate professor of anthropology, said UTEP students requested this event to give them a chance to interact with others on campus to address some of the issues tied to the August 3, 2019, massacre where a lone gunman killed 22 and injured 24 at the Cielo Vista Walmart.

“Healing takes time,” said Nuñez-Mchiri, the event’s lead organizer who added that she hoped that this was the start of a series. “This event is one way that UTEP faculty, staff, students and community partners can share their expertise to help with the healing process. Once word of this activity got out, colleagues reached out. They wanted to help.”

The two day event is underway now, and will run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, August 28 and 29, 2019, at UTEP’s Blumberg Auditorium.

UTEP faculty members from the colleges of Education, Liberal Arts and Health Sciences, and other presenters from the Border Network for Human Rights and The University of Texas at Austin will conduct many of the lectures, workshops and dialogues during the two-day event in the Blumberg on the first floor of the University Library.

This free event is for the UTEP community, but the public may attend.  To view the schedule of events, click here.

Traveling to El Paso to deliver love

Chris Lowe felt a gravitational pull to El Paso as she drove her Fall Forward Across America RV throughout the southern portion of the United States.

The trip, which hopes to instill a desire in people to perform 22 random act of kindness, began on July 26 and took a detour toward the Sun City after the attack on the El Paso Walmart on August 3.

“This RV is about kindness and the energy behind it,” she said. “I felt compelled to come here knowing that this town needed to know there are kind people in the world thinking about them. Everything just brought me here.”

Lowe, a Florida native, chose the number 22 for the acts of kindness even before the attack in El Paso which killed 22 people. The 22 represents the age her son would have been when she began her mission to spread love throughout the country.

Inspired by media reports of two EPISD teachers who asked strangers from throughout the world to show kindness to their students by sending them notes of support via mail,  Lowe drove into Tom Lea Elementary on Friday.

She was joined by Tara Ijai of Love Glasses Revolution, who donated hundreds of heart-shaped sunglasses to students at Tom Lea and Hillside Elementary.

Tom Lea fourth-grade teacher Teresa Garrett had partnered with Hillside Elementary teacher Elvira Flores on the notes of love project, which has continued to draw thousands of letters from across the globe to the school.

Both Lowe and Ijai had already visited Hillside. Lowe challenged students to do random acts of kindness – big or small – and explained how this movement can have a ripple effect throughout the community.

“When you’re kind to other people — no matter what is happening in the world — you can change someone’s life,” Lowe said, echoing the message she shared with the students. “You could change someone’s day or change someone’s thoughts. Just one little kind gesture or comment can really change someone’s whole life.”

Benefactors of her cross-country trek have gotten a full tank of gas, gift cards, coffee, lottery tickets and simple gestures of opening the door, smiling, compliments and kind words. She gave students headbands and wrist bands as reminders of her visit and challenge to do at least one act of kindness a day.

“If you think about what you could do for others, it makes your problems seem less significant,”  said Lowe, who began her journey in her home state of Florida. “The more you do it, the more you inspire others to do it and it becomes a wave of kindness.”

Along her journey through Arizona, she met Ijai who spreads love through her heart-shaped sunglasses. Ijai had only traveled throughout her state of Arizona gifting her sunglasses but felt a call to El Paso knowing the city craved her message.

“We want to show solidarity, love and support for those who need it,” she said, smiling at the sea of students sporting the heart-shaped glasses. “The teachers were asking for postcards but we felt we could do more.”

A few minutes before Lowe arrived, students received their glasses and quickly put them on — a reminder of their kindness and perfect shade from the hot summer sun. Ijai’s husband Adnane Ijai designed all the glasses and created selections in different colors and themes –all shaped in their signature heart frame.

“We are going to consistently rebel against hate and negativity,” Tara Ijai said. “Someone drove hours to deliver hate. We felt the natural antidote was to drive hours to El Paso to deliver love.”

The students gathered for photos showing off their new shades – the tag still hanging from most.

“These are the best glasses in the world,” said fourth-grader Kai. “They’re cool.”

His classmates appreciated the gesture and knowing people care about them and their city.

“I think it’s nice because of what happened in our city,” said Madison Miller, a fourth-grader. “It makes me feel protected in the United States of America. It makes me feel happy. I like the glasses a lot.”

Garrett is grateful for the Ijais and Lowe visit and the response the school has received from throughout the world. She spends hours every night reading and categorizing postcards and messages before sharing with students.

“You can’t put it into words,” she said. “The children are thrilled every single day and they are paying it forward. It’s been such an outpouring of love. Good people are truly still here. They outnumber the bad people and I think we’ve seen that.”

Story by Reneé de Santos   |  Photos by Leonel Monroy  – EPISD

TTP El Paso Mental Health Professionals offer tips,resources for overcoming emotional trauma after mass shooting

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso and Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso mental health professionals, who help patients recover from emotional trauma, are sharing tips and urging community members to seek help in the wake of the August 3rd Walmart shooting.

“Whether directly or indirectly affected by the mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart on August 3, some residents of our community may experience significant emotional issues,” TTP El Paso officials shared via an email.

Post-traumatic symptoms can affect victims and their loved ones, first responders, medical personnel, criminal investigators and others involved in traumatic incidents.

“People are going to know people who were in the store or know someone who was affected. There were a lot of folks who were witnesses, like first responders, even members of the media, and members of our TTUHSC El Paso and TTP El Paso community who treated the wounded,” said Melanie Longhurst, Ph.D., M.Ed., a TTUHSC El Paso assistant professor and clinical psychologist who works with veterans with PTSD in the El Paso Veterans Affairs health care system.

Resulting mental health disorders can include acute stress disorder (ASD), which occurs immediately after a traumatic incident, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a long-term condition.

Affected individuals may experience a myriad of emotional and physical symptoms, including:

  • Depression, anxiety, anger and fear.
  • Nightmares.
  • Intrusive thoughts.
  • Flashbacks.
  • Negative thoughts about the future.
  • Poor appetite or overeating.
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
  • Social isolation.
  • Avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event.

Moataz M. Ragheb, M.D., Ph.D., a TTUHSC El Paso associate professor and practicing psychiatrist with Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, said most people will recover with gradual resolution of symptoms over the following days, weeks, and sometimes months.

Only a minority will go on to develop long-term psychiatric conditions such as PTSD, he said.

With recovery being the rule rather than the exception, Dr. Ragheb and Dr. Longhurst said there are tools that can help people cope with trauma, including social and psychological interventions and medications, if necessary.

“You do not have  to suffer in silence until recovery is achieved,” Dr. Longhurst said.

Dr. Ragheb and Dr. Longhurst said another important tool is practicing self-care. There are things a person can do—and others things to avoid—to achieve recovery:

  • Refrain from using alcohol as a coping tool.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Stick to a nutritious diet and get regular exercise—even a brisk walk is helpful.
  • Minimize exposure to non-stop media coverage of the tragedy. Put down your phone or tablet—there is no need to constantly check social media for updates; it will just make you feel more stressed.
  • Practice relaxation exercises, mindfulness, meditation and/or yoga.
  • Do not suppress normal emotions.
  • Be aware of your brain’s patterns of response to the trauma. Don’t let negative thoughts take you into darker places. Pause, ponder and examine your train of thought. Challenge painful—often illogical—assumptions and conclusions. You are more resilient than you probably think.
  • There is no shame in reaching out for help.
  • This is not a one-size-fits-all list of recommendations; self-care will be different for different people.

As a community, we can help each other by checking in on friends and family and be there to listen to their concerns and worries. This is a time for both grieving and healing, and it works better together, Dr. Longhurst said.

As individuals, we should make an effort to reach out to our social networks of friends and family and stay connected.

“As the dust settles and acute stress starts to wind down, individuals will notice whether or not they will be exhibiting ongoing stress,” Dr. Longhurst said. “Is it impacting their day-to-day functioning? Are they struggling at work, struggling to get things done at home? Those are indicators to seek ongoing help.”

Those who feel they need counseling, guidance or simply want to talk to someone, can contact the organizations listed below for free, confidential consultation services.

  • Emergence Health Network’s 24-hour Crisis Line at 915-779-1800.
  • MetLife Grief Counseling Service at 1-866-885-6540.
  • Magellan Health Counseling Services at 1-800-327-7451.

Texas Safety Commission discusses guns, terrorism and social media at post-El Paso roundtable

Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday convened the first meeting of the newly formed Texas Safety Commission, ramping up the state’s efforts to devise policy solutions in the wake of the deadly shooting targeting immigrants and Hispanics earlier this month in El Paso.

For over four hours, the commission — which includes state leaders, lawmakers and law enforcement officials — met behind closed doors at the Capitol in what Abbott described as the “next step to make sure that we respond robustly and rapidly to the” El Paso attack.

Speaking with reporters at the end of the meeting, Abbott rattled off a long list of items that were discussed — stronger threat assessment efforts, better collaboration between social media companies and law enforcement, strengthening the state’s domestic terrorism law. He also broached more politically sensitive issues related to guns, saying there was discussion surrounding red flag laws — or at least an alternative to them — background checks and assault weapons.

“I think the conversation went in a lot of different directions,” state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, told reporters after the meeting. “Guns were discussed extensively — what we have under current law, what we can do under potential news laws. I think everything was on the table.”

“It was a very open and candid conversation and I’m certainly encouraged by the fact we’re trying to build consensus” around the issues, added Moody, the House speaker pro tem.

Twenty-two people were killed and more than two dozen wounded in the El Paso shooting, which took place Aug. 3 at a Walmart. Authorities believe the gunman, who was arrested and charged with capital murder, published an anti-immigrant manifesto shortly before the massacre, railing against a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

Thursday was the first of two meetings that are planned for the safety commission, with the second one scheduled for next Thursday in El Paso. The meetings are similar to a series of roundtables that Abbott held in the wake of the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting, and he presented a stack of papers to reporters Thursday to illustrate how many proposals came out of those roundtables that he signed into law.

Like he did after the Santa Fe roundtables, Abbott plans to issue a report with recommendations following the post-El Paso meetings. The governor, who has resisted pleas by some House Democrats to call a special session after El Paso, said the commission will focus on “ideas and suggestions that can lead to laws” but emphasized the state can take more immediate action without legislation.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

More than 20 people were killed in an Aug. 3, 2019, shooting rampage at a Walmart in El Paso. The gunman was arrested and charged with capital murder for the shooting in El Paso, which is recoveringfrom what federal law enforcement has classified as an act of domestic terrorism.

MORE IN THIS SERIES 

After losing his wife in a mass shooting, he invited El Pasoans to her funeral. Hundreds showed up.

After a gunman took the life of Margie Reckard in a mass shooting at a Walmart store two weeks ago, her husband Antonio Basco didn’t have any other family in this town. So he invited all El Pasoans to celebrate “the love of his life” at her funeral Friday.

Their response overwhelmed him.

Hundreds of people began lining up outside La Paz Faith Memorial and Spiritual Center in Central El Paso at about 5 p.m. The line of supporters eventually spanned several blocks and grew to nearly 1,000. A group of motorcyclists that included several veterans stood at attention while holding American flags. Later, neighbors set up a buffet line for supporters who were still in line as the afternoon turned to evening.

Basco thanked the people there for the support. A thin, 61-year old man who walks with the help of a cane, he greeted hundreds of supporters inside the church, where mariachis serenaded parishioners before an hour-long prayer service delivered by Bishop Harrison Johnson. But the El Pasoans who lined up to offer their condolences said they also owed Basco for offering them a chance to come together and try to heal as a community.

Dean Eckard, Reckard’s son who came to El Paso from Omaha for the services, described her as a gentle soul who “had it tough” growing up.

“But when she met Tony though, she seemed really happy and in love,” he said. Eckard added that his mother was battling Parkinson’s disease when she died. “For Tony to stick by her through those years … I can’t thank you enough.”

Earlier this week Basco told CNN that he takes fresh flowers to a vigil at the Walmart everyday. In a video posted by the news outlet, Basco could be seen speaking to his wife at the site of a white cross that bears her name.

“There’s going to be a lot of people. I told you you were important,” he said before the funeral. “So what you been up to? What are you going to do up there? I wish you could tell me something.”

The attack on Aug. 3 killed 22 people and is being investigated as a hate crime. Authorities believe the gunman posted an online manifesto railing against the “invasion” of Texas by immigrants and Mexicans. Friday’s funeral was one of the final services for the victims of the massacre, which included eight Mexican citizens. The attack has thrust the issue of gun control back into the spotlight; Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the creation of a domestic terrorism task force.

State Rep. Joe Moody, an El Paso Democrat, said the display was a physical manifestation of the city still trying to make sense of the tragedy.

Antonio Basco was overwhelmed with the support of the El Paso community at his wife Margie Reckard’s funeral at La Paz Faith Center in El Paso, Texas Friday, August, 16, 2019. Without much family and friends in town, Basco invited the public to his wife’s funeral and El Paso showed up in droves. His wife was one of the 22 killed in the Walmart mass shooting on August 3, 2019. Mark Lambie /USA TODAY NETWORK

“This is a very real way for everyone to openly grieve and go through that process. When you lose someone in your personal life, this is a part of that process you go through,” he said. “I think our community lost something and this is our community grieving together.”

Politics wasn’t a major theme Friday night. But Salvador Perches, owner of Perches Funeral Homes who coordinated the service, announced he ordered 22 hearses to deliver the hundreds of floral arrangements donated for the funeral to the Walmart parking lot to honor the victims.

He also hopes to make a point.

“We’re going to make a statement to the world,” he said. “That something is wrong, and something needs to change.”

Disclosure: Walmart has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

More than 20 people were killed in an Aug. 3, 2019, shooting rampage at a Walmart in El Paso. The gunman was arrested and charged with capital murder for the shooting in El Paso, which is recoveringfrom what federal law enforcement has classified as an act of domestic terrorism.

MORE IN THIS SERIES 

Family Assistance Center set to close, transition to Resiliency Center

The Family Assistance Center (FAC), opened by the El Paso City-County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the American Red Cross, will be moving out of the Convention Center in Downtown El Paso at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, August 13.

The resources and services provided by the FAC will still be available directly from the public, private and nonprofit organizations while the center transitions to the upcoming El Paso Resiliency Center.

A full list of services, contact information, and their locations will be available at EPStrong.org and by dialing 2-1-1 once the center closes on Tuesday.

The FAC will remain open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., today and tomorrow, August 13. Individuals affected by the August 3 event are still encouraged to visit the Family Assistance Center to receive any needed support or services.

Information regarding the coming Resiliency Center will be provided by the City of El Paso in the next several days.

Anyone needing immediate support may call the Crisis Hotline at (915) 779-1800.

UTEP Athletics Announces #ElPasoStrong Campaign,Will include all Fall sports

Following the tragedy in the Sun City on August 3, UTEP Athletic Department officials have announced the #ElPasoStrong campaign, to be spread over two months and encompassing home events for football, men’s basketball, soccer and volleyball.

“Anyone who has spent even the slightest bit of time in our great community has been touched by the warm, loving and welcoming nature of El Pasoans,” Director of Athletics Jim Senter said.

“The events of Aug. 3rd left us shaken, but it hasn’t deterred our spirit.  Our objective is to not only pay tribute to the victims of this senseless violence, but to celebrate all things that make El Paso so wonderful – including the efforts of the first responders and other heroes in the face of this unspeakable tragedy.”

The #ElPasoStrong campaign will kick off at the soccer team’s season opener versus Wyoming on August 22 at University Field (7 p.m.), and continue at the football season opener against Houston Baptist on August 31 in the Sun Bowl (6 p.m.), and the volleyball season opener versus Coppin State on September 6 at Memorial Gym (10 a.m.).

In addition, the Miner men’s basketball team will battle 2019 national runner-up Texas Tech in an exhibition game at the Don Haskins Center on October 12 (7 p.m.), with all proceeds being donated to a local non-profit supporting the victims of the August 3 tragedy.

The UTEP football team will wear #ElPasoStrong decals on their helmets throughout the duration of the 2019 season, beginning against Houston Baptist on August 31.

The HBU game will include recognition of the victims and heroes of the August 3 tragedy as well as a halftime celebration of “Everything El Paso” including performances by the UTEP band, cheer and spirit teams, as well as other special appearances.

The football game will be held in conjunction with a busy weekend of #ElPasoStrong events on the UTEP campus, with Minerpalooza slated for Friday, August 30 and a Khalid benefit concert scheduled for Sunday, September 1 in the Don Haskins Center.

The basketball exhibition will also feature a celebration of El Paso.  All tickets will be $10 with general admission (first come/first served) seating.

The exhibition game is not part of the 2019-20 season ticket package as all proceeds will benefit a local non-profit supporting the victims of the tragedy in El Paso.

Tickets are on sale now at the UTEP Ticket Center, located at 2901 North Mesa next to the Don Haskins Center and the UTEP Ticket Center East Side location, located at 1452 Zaragoza Suite A-1500.

Tickets can also be purchased by calling (915) 747-5234 as well as online.  Parking for the exhibition game will not be reserved and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

In addition, all UTEP student athletes will wear #ElPasoStrong warmup t-shirts prior to their 2019-20 home events.

Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine donates $100K for scholarships to El Paso Victims’ Education Fund

In wake of the devastating El Paso shooting that left 22 dead on August 3, the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine (BCOM) is giving $100,000 to support future scholarships for children who were affected by the massacre.

“We are deeply saddened about the tragic shooting in our sister city, El Paso,” says BCOM President, John Hummer. “With so many of our faculty, staff and students connected to El Paso — this truly hits close to home.”

Dozens of BCOM students, faculty and staff call El Paso home and regularly commute between Las Cruces, NM, and El Paso, TX.

“Our hearts are especially heavy for the children and teens who have lost a loved one,” Hummer says. “We hope this gift will help ease any future worries they have about their education; please know that the BCOM family is behind you and is here to help.”

The gift will go directly to the El Paso Community Foundation Victims’ Education Fund, which was established to provide tuition assistance and related expenses for university, college, trade or vocational school.

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