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On Saturday, my hometown of El Paso, Texas got hit heavy by the hand of evil. I have no other way to describe it than that.
I don’t like to get political in my writing. I like to use my work to share with everyone creativity, fun and silliness. You know, the positive side of the human condition, which if you read the arguing on social media these days you may feel it doesn’t exist much anymore.
I have been avoiding the constant news, and social media arguing. However, I feel since I still live in the area, it only seems right I do comment on something that needs to be addressed: I discovered there are some fantastic, loving, and wonderful souls in El Paso, Texas.
Instead of talking more about the shooting or the devastation it caused, about politicians or policies, I am going to share with you some good in the world: what many people in my city have done since Saturday.
Now, I was fortunately nowhere near the part of town where the shooting occurred, nor do I know anyone who was affected by it. For that, I am thankful. Yet, when something happens in your city, you feel it happened to everyone in some way, and I have quickly learned many in my town feel the same way. Yet, El Pasoans came through.
Here are three things that happened on the day of the shooting:
--- Blood donations for the victims have gone through the roof. Announcements were circulating everywhere on how and where to give blood, and even our comic book shop sent out a list on their Facebook site.
My father, just a couple of months away from turning 80, with two back surgeries, hip surgeries and bouts with kidney cancer, drove himself out to the nearest blood donation center with every intention to give. However, the line around the building of people waiting to literally give something of themselves was so incredibly long, he is postponing it for a few days.
This wasn’t a line for a store opening or for a concert, it was a line to give blood, and people endured our hot August weather in the desert to do so.
--- People allowed life to go on, but with vigilance and respect. This past weekend in El Paso was supposed to be about good things. This was the start of the last week off before most school kids headed back. It was the first weekend of the well-attended Plaza Classic Film Festival. And, in my own world, Saturday was the day of my youngest daughter’s 10th birthday. Did the city shut down? Well, yes and no.
Some businesses closed early, and there were some concert events that postponed, but others made the decision not to let evil win. People went outside, gathered at favorite restaurants, and went to movies or other events. Vigils were held, moments of silence were given, but many in my city would not allow themselves to be overtaken by fear.
Were we afraid? Yes, but we weren't paralyzed. My daughter had a movie party planned with a friend, and I didn’t want the only remembrance of her day to be the shooting. We went to the movies, the theater was only half full, but not empty. I kept close watch on the exits, but enjoyed the film with my daughter and her friend. When we left the theater, the people at the ticket counter told each guest, “Thank you for coming, now be safe out there.”
Sometimes, when lives are lost and broken, you feel you have no right to go on living your own. Instead, be thankful you can.
As for church the next morning, ours was packed. People wanted to get out, get together, find ways to help each other and, yes, pray. I go to a Protestant church, but the majority of El Paso is Catholic. One thing I learned growing up here, when someone says they will pray for you, they will. In some cases, they will right there and then. I’m leaving it up to the individual whether or not they feel prayer works (I do), but know this about El Paso: when our Texas grandmas or abuelas offer prayers, you’ll get them. That is an awesome thing.
--- Many businesses and organizations stepped up and gave. I edit and write for a local arts publication, and by Saturday afternoon, my work email was filled with press releases of local, and national, businesses helping El Paso.
That very afternoon, we received word from local funeral homes they would provide funeral services for the victims without charge. I wish they didn’t have to do this at all, but knowing they were there to help was admirable. I received a press release from UTEP offering a crisis line for victims, and the El Paso Community Foundation, which runs the Plaza Classic Film Festival, started a victims' fund. Even one of our prominent performing arts organizations, El Paso Pro-Musica, went to one location to perform soothing classical music for those waiting to give blood, and it has an upcoming performance with proceeds going to the victims' fund.
Yesterday, I received a release from American Airlines donating $75,000 to the El Paso Community Foundation, and $75,000 to the Dayton Oregon District Tragedy Fund at the Dayton Foundation.
I know this sounds cliché, but this act of hatred spawned so many acts of kindness, giving, almost defiant bravery, and community solidarity.
Evil happened in my hometown, but El Paso endured.
Anyone wishing to help the victims and their families from my city can through El Paso Community Foundation's victims' fund at epcf.org/victims, and those wishing to give in the Dayton area can at daytonfoundation.org.