Four Native El Pasoans Speak Out After the Mass Shooting

Reflection and Interviews by M. Miranda Maloney

M. Miranda Maloney, east Texas

I was far from home, 12 hours away in east Texas, when I first heard the news of the mass shooting in El Paso.  At first, I thought surely I was confusing it for another El Paso; perhaps, El Paso County, Colorado? But as the news saturated social media and national TV news, with minute by minutes updates, I recognized the murder scene—the Walmart I had shopped in more than one occasion; the familiarity of blue sky; the brown faces of my Paisanos. Within seconds of the shooting, my sisters, who live in El Paso, bombed our chat. Their texts were chaotic—unfinished sentences, bits and pieces of information, one-word sentences: No! Why?! OMG! My heart sank. My knees folded, and I sank to the floor and began to sob. I asked myself over and over: Why would someone shoot my people? The words  “Hate” and “Manifesto” had not yet been made public. But as the hours, days, and weeks revealed the details of the egregious crime, I had to reckon with a reality I was not prepared to face—my safety and identity. Living in a mostly white, Republican, insulated, small east Texas town, where already many front yards displayed Trump 2020 signs, I no longer trusted the community. I felt betrayed. I felt unsafe. I tried to turn to the church community I belonged to, also predominately white, hoping I to find solace, someone to talk to about the anguished I felt. To my disappointment, no one seemed concerned, or even inquired about my family in El Paso. The few times I brought it up during my book club, the conversation shifted to other topics.  A year later, not much has changed. On the first anniversary of the mass shooting, I posted an article on my Facebook page, reserved mostly for my colleagues, no one acknowledged the article. No one commented. My colleagues are all white. Their silence is deafening.

Juana Moriel, Los Angeles, California

I was in Los Angeles when the shooting occurred. I was cooking when I received a text from a family member telling me about the incident. I felt as if a friend of mine was injured. I lived in El Paso for more than 20 years, and I consider the city my hometown. I followed the news and when I learned where the shooting was, I thought immediately it was an act of hate/racism. I was not wrong. I have gone to El Paso since the incident. The city continues to be as beautiful, but I think the shooting will be in our memory forever.

Guadalupe Hernandez, Huntsville, Texas

My initial reaction was that of disbelief. I was in L.A. when I heard the news. I immediately contacted my family to make sure everyone was okay. It turned out my immediate and extended family were at a birthday party that day. My heart ached. Our town had been targeted by a racist individual. I felt my town had been violated. Hate and racism had been brought to our door. El Pasoans have been, for the most part, sheltered from racism, until the mass shooting. Our reality of how others perceived us has undeniably changed us. Once the initial shock wore off, I was angry, devastated, and in disbelief. All I could do was pray for the victims and their families. I felt helpless being so far away from my home town. To make matters worse, I did not feel safe in the community I lived in. I live in a predominately upper-middle class, white neighborhood in Huntsville, Texas. A professor who also lives in my neighborhood and teaches at Sam Houston State University shared an anecdote with me. Her daughter was walking her dog around our neighborhood when an Anglo-Saxon male yelled at her to go back to Mexico. The incident took place two days after the El Paso shooting. This made me feel unsafe. On another occasion, I decided to visit El Paso on Memorial Day weekend. On my way to the airport, the driver asked me what city I was visiting. When I told her I was going to El Paso, her next question was, “Is it safe there?” Not only did the shooter take the lives of 23 El Pasoans, but he had tainted the image of our city.

Melissa Carrillo, Washington D.C.

You want to know how our staff reacted? We felt unsafe. We started talking about our own safety in the office. Weeks later the organization I work for installed a bullet proof dent door, windows and surveillance cameras

Community Altar Photo by Cynthia Renteria
Photograph by Cynthia Renteria.