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El Pasoans Grieve Using Personal Traditions, Walmart Memorial Reflects Community Support

Many El Pasoans are grieving through their own spiritual and religious traditions following the mass shooting at a Walmart that killed 22 people on Aug. 3. 

A memorial outside the store first began as a few flowers and candles but has grown into a massive display of community support. Dozens of posters line the fence above hundreds of religious candles and people continue to share their own methods of comfort. 

Credit Lauren Terrazas / Texas Public Radio
A handmade sign reading '#FronteraStrong' is displayed at the El Paso Walmart memorial.

Jasmine Guiterriez is a native El Pasoan who moved to Albuquerque two years ago. She was burning palo santo, or holy wood, and sage around the memorial. She said it was a method of cleansing and protection. 

“Everybody has their own beliefs and rituals and this is something that I believe very strongly in,” Gutierrez said. “I hope that it helps a little bit in restoring some people’s strength and bringing even myself peace because I’m from here.”

Others could be seen praying the rosary or adding mementos to the 22 white crosses that bare the names of those who lost their lives from the mass shooting. Santos Vargas and her husband Humberto were attaching a religious card depicting Jesus to one of the crosses. 

The Vargas’ attended a funeral mass for Raul and Maria Flores, both 77, earlier in the day. 

Santos said she believed the city would recover. 

“All of us need some comfort in one way or another. We will get better I have no doubt about that — even feeling the way I do feel but I know that we’ll be doing okay with time,” she said.

Credit Lauren Terrazas / Texas Public Radio
Artwork and flowers are among the many mementos added to an El Paso memorial outside the East Side Walmart where twenty-two people were killed.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is a Democrat who represents most of inner city Houston. She stopped by the site on Aug. 12 after visiting victims in the hospital and attending a funeral mass.

“El Paso needs healing, we need to come in a spirit of healing, in a spirit of reconciliation,” she said. “But a resolve that this should never happen again.”

Congresswoman Jackson Lee added her own relic to the sprawling memorial — a red U.S. House of Representatives frisbee with an illustration of the White House.

She says the federal government needs to play a role in uniting the country as a multicultural nation. Congresswoman Jackson Lee was accompanied by her colleague, El Paso Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, who is also a Democrat.

El Paso Police Department said the alleged 21-year-old shooter from Allen, Texas admitted his attack was specifically targeted against the Latino community. The shooter drove over ten hours to the West Texas border city and many of those killed had Latino last names. Eight of the victims were Mexican nationals.

Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter @Joeycules.

Lauren Terrazas can be reached at Lauren@TPR.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren