As of this writing, it’s been 48 hours since a 21 year old kid drove 9 or so hours from the northern part of my state to my city to kill people like me. Hispanic people whether or not they were born here in the United States (like me) or whether or not they crossed over from our sister city, Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico… either way this maniac wanted us dead.
It was a normal Saturday morning for me. I was trying to enjoy my one day a week that I don’t wake up to an alarm and get my day started. The plan for the day was to get up to make breakfast, clean the kitchen up, get a list of things to buy across the street from me at Target for my trip to the DFW area this coming weekend, go to the gym, hit up said Target, then get back home to shower and catch up with Netflix and Hulu as much as I could.
In the middle of cleaning the kitchen up and watching something that I already forget that I had on just as background noise, one of my bandmates started up our group chat on Facebook messenger saying “Hey stay away from the Cielo Vista area…there is an active shooter at the Walmart”. It was about 11:15ish or so. Yeah, I was getting the day started a bit later than I wanted to, but my initial reaction was something along the lines of “damn. Maybe some person just either specifically shot at somebody else or they accidentally fired a gun or something.” Not what was actually going down. Shortly after his message, however, more information started flooding in. I turned my cable box on (yeah, I still have cable. The apartment complex provides it for us, so I use it for some channels) and switched it to the local news stations. KTSM was first. Nothing. Just a message scrolling along the bottom of the screen saying that the message my friend had sent and that they had a crew heading that way. KVIA had nothing yet. KFOX and KDBC had nothing either. So more reason not to kinda worry. And I say kinda worry because to put things in perspective, the Walmart where this went down is THREE MILES from where I live.
To be honest, I never go to that particular Walmart because it’s just too damn crazy all the time and it’s an older model store that doesn’t have the same layout as the newest versions of their stores are. As I’ve said a few times here, my introversion drives me away from really crowded places like that, as it’s always an adventure just trying to find a parking spot there, much less to get through their isles to try to find the things I need to get. I go to one that is 2 miles further away from me, but is newer and has a little bit more breathing room for me to navigate through. It’s still chaotic, mind you, but I’m used to that chaos. Same goes for the location by my dad’s house that I’ll go to sometimes. Oddly enough, I actually DID go to the Walmart by my dad’s house on Friday night because I filled my gas tank up at one of the stations in his neighborhood because the prices are routinely 10-25 cents cheaper than ones near me. Those cents add up considering I’m filling a 32 gallon capacity tank. Anyway, after thanking God for making it to the gas station, as I was running on fumes, I drove the 3 minutes up to the Walmart, got critical groceries (since I just got paid that day and kinda live check to check most of the time), then drove back home to put the stuff up, then hit up the gym.
Back to the point and back to Saturday morning 11:30ish AM…
The group text goes on saying that it was on Fox News. I tuned the TV to that and it was on commercial, so I switched it to MSNBC and that’s where I saw the headline on the bottom about it being a mass shooting and dozens were hurt and dead. WHOA. Word starts to get out even more and I started getting messages that there were multiple shooters and were going to target multiple locations. El Paso was going to be a warzone starting NOW. Next place in line was Bassett Place. Bassett Place is a mall with two large anchor tenants on either side of the mall. Costco is on one end and Target is on the other. As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, Bassett Place is essentially across the street from where I live. Stupid me, not really thinking about it then, or whatever… I don’t know… go outside to throw an empty gallon of distilled water container in the dumpster about 25 feet from my door. I can see the main street, Montana, from there (sorta) and I saw flashing emergency vehicle lights and heard their sirens. They were probably going to Bassett. Again, at this point, the fear or whatever didn’t kick in. I don’t even know why not. So strange right? Best thing I can think of putting into words of what I was thinking at the time was “Heh. Nah, man. Nothing’s happening at Bassett right now. Units are probably rushing up from the firehouse and stuff on Chelsea or something going to Cielo Vista.” And I walked back inside. I got a group text from my dad including my sister about this point too, making sure we were ok. That’s when another moment of heart dropping came into play. For two reasons. First of all, there could have been a very slight chance my sister could have been there. She’s closer to the one I go to as well, but you never know. She could have possibly gone there as I remember she has said she has before. Secondly, what could my dad have been thinking? He knows both of us are early risers and that we shop for groceries on Saturdays sometimes. I can’t even imagine the terror he felt wondering if one or both of his children were dead, or if one or both of his grandchildren were dead. I reply right away that I was home cleaning up the kitchen and my sister replied a few minutes after saying that they were safe. WHEW!!! Shortly after that, I get this message on my phone:
Shit got REAL then. “ALL El Paso City/County residents are asked to shelter”? My dumb ass was just outside throwing away something that could have waited and I put myself in harm’s way. I saw the damn emergency vehicles! I’m right next to another potential place of harm where bad people could run toward to try and escape, and there I was… walking out there. HELL NO. I tuned it to the local NBC affiliate, KTSM, who by then started to broadcast. Multiple reports started coming out, messages were flying from friends. Horizon City was next; Bassett was next, this was a coordinated attack by a large group of people. I was in the line of fire. Even if it was just one person, that one person was 3 miles away from me and could very well be heading my way. I was just frozen, I guess. I didn’t think about this until later on in the night, but if for some reason somebody was going to spray bullets at my apartment unit… there was little in between the wall and me. Just my new 4K UHD TV that wouldn’t stop a bullet and that was about it. Even if I were to somehow fly over my couch, that’s just wood, suede, and foam. Still not enough to stop bullets. People started messaging me or commenting on my Facebook posts to stay inside and don’t leave my house. HELL NO! DON’T HAVE TO TELL ME TWICE! I’M STAYING IN! I started checking the police department twitter feed as that’s where the information was coming through and I see this:
Holy smokes. Multiple reports of multiple shooters? THEY are confirming it! So, I blast out the screenshot of the emergency text telling people to not open up their doors if anybody knocks unless it’s the cops. At this point, I think my nerves are starting to kick in. I was flipping channels between KTSM, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News trying to find the latest news and all they were saying and showing at that point were people coming out of Cielo Vista Mall but nothing about Walmart. Then word came out that the shooter had been apprehended. EPPD was still securing the situation and verifying if there were any more shooters. At the time, they believed there was only one, but still be vigilant, they said. Okay. So, by 2 or so, it was confirmed to be all over. The wild reports of possible things in different places were dying down. KTSM had a screenshot of the killer at the front entrance, gun on him, ear and eye protection on probably about to shoot people as seen from the security camera. Same description as what an eye witness said she saw of a man shooting at people in cars walking along the road. Same description of a man, El Paso Police took into custody without incident on Viscount and Sunmount streets. It was really over, but that was just the beginning for me. I was glued to the TV. I didn’t want to even go outside. What for? I was on social media scrolling my timeline on twitter catching updates from the local reporters I follow, checking the EPPD twitter feed that I follow too, but wasn’t getting messages on for some reason, checking Facebook and doing something I thought I’d never have to do… mark myself safe so that everybody could see I was still alive. Businesses started posting that they were closing for the day out of respect of the situation and out of the safety of their employees. Honestly, I didn’t even want to be out anyway. Then again, when do i? But even more so then. Friends started sharing their stories and the focus of the day shifted to starting to repair our lives. It wasn’t without incident for me, though. My nerves were shot and I was on edge. Sometime around 4 or so I heard a snap outside my door like the snapping of a piece of paper or one of those snap firecracker things and I immediately jolted. I was still traumatized. I stayed glued to the TV until about 9:30 or so when I took a shower, turned the TV off, and went to my room to pray and try to get some sleep.
I was worried about what Sunday morning would bring. I was going to fulfill my Sunday Obligation and go to Low Mass at my FSSP apostolate downtown like do every Sunday, which is heading away from the massacre, but all the while I was wondering who was going to be there. Were the pews going to be overfilling with people coming to seek comfort and/or get back to God? Or were people going to stay away in fear? It was pretty much a normal Sunday. I saw the usual congregation that attends the 8am Low Mass. Father O’Neil started off his homily with us all reciting an Our Father and 3 Hail Mary’s then intertwined his already prepared sermon with the tragedy that unfolded Saturday morning. I still needed to get those things for my road trip to Dallas this Friday and maybe something to make for dinner, but I didn’t want to go to a store. It just didn’t feel right yet, respectful yet, to carry on less than 24 hours after probably the worst day in El Paso’s history like nothing happened. I talked to a few friends, and one like me, was too afraid to go out. Just sad and depressed. All of the people I talked to were. I offered to go pick my friend up that needed groceries, but she declined as she was going to go to her parents’ house and swim with her daughter and her daughter’s friends. I had made up my mind to not go out either unless it was to help a friend, so I just stayed inside. I didn’t know how to feel at that moment.
Coming to work today was the same thing. Just the unknown to deal with. We had a town hall to start the day where management told us that it was ok to feel however it is that we feel. Some cried, some felt anger, some just felt sad. I’m in the sad camp, but I’m writing this out now because writing is how I rid myself of negative thoughts.
So, El Paso will start to pick up the pieces. This kid drove 9 hours to our community to try and break our spirit and our love, but he didn’t and could never. We’re probably closer now than ever before. This picture below here may depict how we feel. Amigo Man (the official El Paso mascot), Chico (the El Paso Chihuahuas our AAA Baseball Team mascot), and Paydirt Pete (UTEP’s Mascot) are all crying, consoling each other, but we’ll all pull through better on the other side. Hug your friends and family whenever you can. Tell the people that you love that you love them, each chance you get, because something like this can happen to you.