The day that twenty-two people were shot and killed in my hometown of El Paso, Texas- I could not stop staring at my ceiling fan.
When someone asked me for the first time to describe August 3rd to them, somehow, that is the only image I could conjure up in my brain. A ceiling fan.
Going around and around. I watched it turn in circles, as if it would just turn the opposite direction, maybe it could rewind time. There was paralyzing shock, there was anger, and it was a horrifying fear not only coming true, but coming to my home.
It has taken me four weeks to want to write about it, which coming from a daily journal writer, is a bit bizarre. More than twenty-eight days have gone by and I still, like many others, am figuring out how to completely feel like myself again. Things will never be the same as they once were, and a consequent sadness is coupled with fear, but also with determination. Running parallel to the trauma of a tragedy being placed at my feet, is the inexplicable need to ignite change, and dedicate more than a million moments to Jordan Anchondo, 15-year-old Javier Rodriguez, Margie Reckard, and the rest of the twenty- two victims and all who were injured. The present and future work of individuals, non-profits, social movements, and progressive politicians, will with no fault, also include dedication to those injured and killed in Dayton, Ohio, Midland-Odessa, Texas, and those affected by the unspoken and uncovered atrocities that occur due to gun violence each day in America.
So perhaps it took me so long to write this because I simply did not understand how my city could so quickly become another statistic, another tweet, or another series of deaths that were taken at the hands of racism, greed, and self-serving agendas. Speaking out against these issues will forever be a part of my own dedication, but more importantly, I will strive to represent where I come from, who I’ve come from, and what the city of El Paso means to me with the upmost passion, even if I still do not understand. And when I think of sitting down with a stranger, a stranger much like the young man who drove 700 miles from Plano, Texas, these are the three stories I would tell- the stories of three courageous, enlightening women whose winding, charismatic destinies have placed them in west Texas, and how their unique characteristics mimic that of an entire city.
The first one- the story of my maternal grandmother. Born in Elmshausen, Germany, she came to El Paso with her husband, a soldier in the United States Army. Fifty years later, they are still married and she still shops at the commissary on post, and she has taught her grandkids how to love schnitzel and rolaten, and that these foods will always be at Christmas dinner, but so will tamales. She is tough and she is open and welcoming of other cultures, and she remembers August 3rd.
The second, the story of my paternal grandmother. A graduate from Ysleta High School and Texas Western College, a mom of three sons, and a wife of a fellow Ysleta graduate and El Paso Baseball Hall of Famer. A woman born to Mexican parents, she ended up in Lewiston, Idaho once, then back in El Paso, as a mother keeping a family together. She is the purest celebration of El Paso’s rich history, unconditional familial love, friendship, and she remembers August 3rd.
The Third, the story of my mother. Daughter of a German immigrant and an Army veteran, she raised two kids in El Paso, but she touches the lives of hundreds. She is a sixth-grade teacher to kids that come from all over the world, and she never bats an eye in times of difficulty in the classroom or at home. Not even during a fight with breast cancer. She is resilience, intelligence, and the universal acceptance of others, and she remembers August 3rd.
My multi cultural background reflects the history of Texas, a history of many cultures becoming one. These are my testimonies to who I am- the make-up of these women. In every one of them I see El Paso, and in turn, they are what El Paso means to me. Strength, openness, unconditional love, friendship, resilience, intelligence, and universality. This is El Paso’s legacy. The beauty of these characteristics are mirrored in the skyline of downtown El Paso, in the green cacti that dot the sand, in the hands that you shake at church and the hands you shake on a high school football field. They are the smell of the desert after it rains, and the glow of the sunsets painted in the sky by twenty-two wonderful angels that El Paso will always remember. At night before I close my eyes, I will see that ceiling fan going around and around, I know that I will always remember, and I could only pray that the rest of the world will always remember too.