Texas Rising Students Speak on Healing and Remembrance In El Paso Three Years After the Tragic Loss of 23 Lives

El Paso Blog

It’s been three years since an act of terrorism fueled by white supremacy and far-right extremism robbed the El Paso community of 23 lives.

While shopping at their local Walmart during the busy weekend before back-to-school, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sons, and daughters were gunned down by a domestic terrorist. He’d driven 10 hours just to target Latinos and immigrants at this particular Walmart, where almost everyone from El Paso and nearby bordering towns, like Chihuahua, Mexico, come to shop for their families.

Jordan and Andre Anchondo (25 and 24), Javier Amir Rodriguez (15), David Johnson (63), Angie Englisbee (86), Arturo Benavides (60), Elsa Mendoza Marquez (57), Leonardo Campos (41), Maribel Loya (56), Juan Velazquez (77), Gloria Irma Marquez (61), Maria Eugenia Legarreta Rothe (58), Sara Esther Regalado (66), Adolfo Cerros Hernandez (68), Margie Reckard (63), Ivan Filiberto Manzano (46), Jorge Calvillo Garcia (61), Maria Flores and Raul Flores, Alexander Hoffman (66), Teresa Sanchez (82), Luis Alfonzo Juarez (90), and Guillermo Garcia all lost their lives that day, and the community has been forever changed.

We cannot honor the victims of the El Paso shooting without acknowledging how much work is still needed to prevent more of these senseless tragedies. Just more than two months ago — another Texas community was stricken by unimaginable grief when we lost 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary in Uvalde. Still, state leaders have ignored public outcry and refuse to call a special session on gun reform and safety.

On the third anniversary of the tragedy in El Paso, our Texas Rising Student Leaders from the community find themselves reflecting on what they remember from that day, how El Pasoans continue healing together, and why their work as activists is essential as we continue building the power needed to create a world where our children always come home from school, and we can shop, see movies, go to concerts, and buy groceries for our families without fear.

Texas Rising Student Interviews:

What students remember about the day:

“I heard the news from a friend of mine that the shooting was happening, and the first thing I did was call my sisters, and my mom, and my dad, just praying that they didn’t go to that Walmart that day. Thankfully, they decided to take a nap instead.”

Mimi Aguirre (she/hers), UT El Paso Chapter

“I was just trying to see if my community was okay. It was just really scary.”

Amey Gomez (she/hers), UT El Paso Chapter

How the community continues healing:

“People are still healing, but the way El Paso does it is collectively and openly.”

Bruce Jordan (they/them), UT El Paso Chapter

“I don’t think we can completely move on until something is done. Because like every other mass shooting that’s happened, nothing ever gets done. Policymakers give their thoughts and prayers, but after that, they stall out until another mass shooting hits and we begin the cycle all over again. I think once we get somewhere [with that], we can start completely healing as a community.”

Michael A. Gutierrez (they/them), UT El Paso Chapter

What can we do next?

“We went through the pain together. And to see that this is still an issue [after] the Uvalde shooting is… just when we thought we were okay, another thing happens. It’s this constant state of healing. I try to tell my friends, I try to tell my community members, join these orgs. You can be a change. You can be part of these conversations for gun reform.”

Amey Gomez (she/hers), UT El Paso Chapter

“[We have to start] talking about the inherent ties that come with white supremacy and gun violence. Seeing it devastate and ravage my community, that was just a can of worms that everyone got to open, dig into, talk about—and really figure out why this happened.”

Mimi Aguirre (she/hers), UT El Paso Chapter