Dear Ones, it’s been 5 months since the El Paso shooting at a mid-town Walmart. Joining my friend Penny for today’s Thinking Out Loud Thursday post. She is thinking aloud about the Oscars. I am taking a look at how far we have come since that tragic day, August 3, 2019. And debating with myself about how I feel about the reopening of the store in November. Reopening little more than 3 months after one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history. An horrific event that claimed 22 lives and injured 26.
El Paso Shooting
The shooting happened on a Saturday morning, a few days before the annual back-to-school, tax-free weekend in El Paso, Texas. It was one of the incidents that had me relieved to say goodbye to 2019.
My Prince was on the way to his baseball game and I was home hoping to do a little housework, then maybe scrapbook with my sister. Just a few moments after PC left the house, my cell phone and his work phone began beeping with what sounded like an Amber Alert. But rather than being one alarm, the sound continued much longer. I realized something was different and checked my phone to find the message below:
Simultaneously, our home phone rang and it was Paul. He and the rest of the baseball team had received a text from one of the players who is also with the EPPD, saying he wouldn’t be at the game because of the emergency happening at the Cielo Vista Mall. I clicked on the TV to find news reports about an active shooter at the Walmart and then the mall in the Cielo Vista part of town. PC went on to his game, which had him playing until mid-afternoon. I sat glued to the television barely daring to breathe.
In the 5 Months Since
Since that day, El Paso has managed to regain its collective footing and begin to move forward.
there was the creation of a makeshift memorial that went up almost immediately after the crime scene was determined to be safe. It was established at the behind the Walmart store. Turns out the shooter was never at the Cielo Vista Mall as it was first reported.
I went to the memorial on Thursday after the shooting that Saturday. The photo below is a panoramic view of the memorial in 5 day’s time. You can see the back of the store through the privacy screen on the chain link fence. The memorial was made up of posters, messages, prayer candles, flowers, balloons, stuffed animals much like I remembered seeing at the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
Almost as immediately, marquees and billboards began promoting the message El Paso Strong and then, #ElPaSOSTRONG.
On the following day, our church, Abundant Living Faith Center, offered a message of strength and faith, and unity, encouraging parishioners not to give into fear. Our assistant pastor, Jared Nieman, reminded us that God is always good and always on our side. He suggested that if Walmart were to decide to reopen at the site of the shootings, we should support the decision. As doing otherwise would be allowing the enemy to win.
In the Weeks That Followed…
the work of combing through the evidence at the Walmart was tedious and time-consuming: “it took crime scene specialists more than 10 days to process blood and bone fragments at the scene.” [source] Suspected shooter, Patrick Crusius, 21, plead not guilty on 10.10.2019 during his first brief appearance in court. The monument continued to grow but there was talk of construction of a permanent memorial to honor the victims.
Plans for reopening the store came shortly after the police department completed the evidence-gathering. Once manned by armed security guards, this Walmart is an extremely busy store right off I-10, patronized by both El Paso citizens and shoppers from neighboring Juarez, Mexico. Sadly, security had been reduced sometime over the past 3 years.
three months and 11 days after the El Paso shooting, the Cielo Vista area Walmart reopened. “The company said the opening would not be a celebratory event, but a chance for it to show employees the changes its made internally and externally to the facility. That includes a new onsite memorial Walmart has planned called “The Grand Candela,” which will honor the victims of the El Paso mass shooting.” [source]
The day before the reopening, some items from the makeshift memorial were moved to nearby Ponder Park, the site of at least one candlelight vigil for the victims. Other items were removed or cataloged to be included in the city’s museum of history.
PC and I visited the new memorial at Ponder Park and tied orange ribbons to its chain link fence backdrop.
And the next day we stopped by the Walmart, not to go in but just to see. To see if others were shopping, or just filling the parking lot ‘just to see’ as we were.
The Grand Candela is Erected…
the weekend before Thanksgiving, Walmart lit its permanent memorial dedicated to the El Paso shooting victims and their families. The Grand Candela. The 30 foot golden obelisk is made up of 22 individual arcs, one for each life lost. It can be seen from I-10 in the store’s parking lot where the shooting began.
Each of the arcs features cut out in a distinct pattern. What do you see in the cut outs above?
The candela shape is symbolic of the many prayers candles or velas left at the site of the El Paso shooting.
A New Year
As of this article dated 12.06.2019, a date has yet to be determined for the trial of alleged shooter Patrick Crusius. Because of the huge volume of evidence collected and requiring review, a third lawyer has been added to the defense team. El Paso almost breathed a choral sigh of relief as we bid 2019 goodbye. But the healing may not come full circle until the gunman’s trial is behind us.
Thinking Out Loud Thursday
I was torn about the reopening of the Walmart store. Although, I agree with Paster Niemen’s message that we cannot give into fear, I am not sure it wouldn’t have better to have demolished this building and rebuilt in the same location. This store is about 15 miles from my home and I have a Walmart Super Center and a Walmart Neighborhood Market that I shop much closer. I have shopped at this store but only a time or two. It is certainly not for me to decide what should or shouldn’t have been done.
The librarian in me decided to research what was done in the case of 3 school campuses that were the sites of mass shootings, Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Librarians are cautioned not to use Wikipedia as a primary source for anything. But I struggled to find information elsewhere.
The best I can tell, the 4 year old library at Columbine was the scene of of most of the shooting at that school. The library was torn down and a memorial atrium built in its place. A new library was built in a building separate from the rest of the campus.
In the case of Sandy Hook, the school was completely rebuilt. The old school building was demolished and the new building constructed in a different area of the same property. The school opened 3.5 years after the massacre.
I believe Marjory Stoneman Douglas or Parkland High School remains standing, with only the addition of a memorial garden unveiled almost a year after the tragedy.
Finally, there’s the Century 16 movie theater that was the site of another shooting. It reopened 6 months after the crime. Wonder why some of the buildings were demolished and others were reopened?
What do you think about Walmart reopening 3 months after the El Paso shooting? Is it giving into fear to tear down the sites of such tragedy? Or is it done out of respect to the lives lost and impacted by the tragedy? Would you shop at this Walmart if it was the store closest to your home?
It is a gray, cool January day. I am going to finish – a novelty for me – FINISH ironing and my kitchen reorganization and decluttering project. A winter goal. And say a little prayer for all of the victims of senseless shootings. Hope you will join me.
Hugs and kisses,