Thoughts on the El Paso shooting

A bit more than a year ago, I attended a multimedia training put on by faculty at the University of Texas, El Paso and sponsored by the Dow Jones News Fund. Outside of a gas stop on my trek on I-10 from California to Miami, it was the first time I had been to the border city.

Still, much of it felt familiar. I grew up in San Diego, so popping over to a foreign country for a bite or a drink on a whim didn’t seem all that odd. I was also used to the dichotomy between the Mexican and U.S. sides – El Paso vs. Ciudad Juarez and San Diego vs. Tijuana. (Pet peeve: There are only two “a”s in Tijuana. It’s Tee-wha-na not Tee-A-wha-na. Moving on.)

That is, that the American cities were clean, well-maintained, safe and orderly while the Mexican ones were chaotic messes filled with crime. The recent shootings in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton may have changed these perceptions, at least outside of the hyper-partisan bubble so often seen on cable television.

Though I have been to the Gilroy Garlic Festival and tasted the infamous garlic ice cream (pro tip: don’t), the Walmart shooting in El Paso affected me so much more. I could almost feel the dry heat mixing with the cold sweat of terror that must have dampened the shirts of hundreds of shoppers and dripped from the brows of dozens of police officers who ran into harm’s way.

My first thought was simply: “My god. Why El Paso? They don’t deserve this.” And then: “Why should any city, anywhere, deserve this? Isn’t this America? Aren’t we supposed to be better than this?” And then, sadly: “Not yet.”

Putting aside how things are going to get better, and how that might be done, one thing is certain: El Paso will endure. Despite my relatively brief time in the area, I was struck by so many Pasenos’ endurance, internal steel and, yes, stubbornness — traits seemingly required to live and thrive in the often unforgiving landscape that is West Texas.

As part of my time in the multimedia academy, our little team of reporters focused on a group of mostly women keeping a vigil over the developers – and bulldozers – attempting to remake their neighborhood. Duranguito is in a rapidly gentrifying part of downtown El Paso, with the land suddenly worth far more than ever before. But for these women, the area was simply their home, and had been for decades. They had no intention of moving. If you’re interested, here’s the story

A quick check of news about the neighborhood indicates the fight – despite the increasingly heavy odds to those opposed to its development – continues on. This does not surprise me, but it stands as near proof-positive that El Paso will survive this senseless tragedy and, against all odds, that something good will come of it.

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