“What people don’t understand about El Paso is this is the biggest small town in the world.”
As told to Rose Cahalan on August 7, four days after a gunman killed 22 people at an El Paso Walmart.
I’ve been a staff photographer at the El Paso Times for 18 years. I was covering UTEP football practice on Saturday morning [the day of the shooting]. My phone started dinging probably around 10:20, and I got on the scene by 10:35. Everybody was moving around like zombies, just in complete shock. We were all at a loss. I’m so tired that I haven’t had time to process any of this. I get home at night and I’m editing the final work of the day and it starts to hit … You have these two-minute cries every once in a while.
When I took these photos at the memorial outside the Walmart, there was an overwhelming odor of flowers. You could be standing 40 feet away and you’d still smell the flowers and candles. Church groups were singing and praying, mariachis playing, strangers hugging. This town is really good about coming together. Trump will be flying in later today, and while he has every right to come, I personally think it’s bad timing. It makes me sad that instead of healing and support, today will be about politics. That’s not what we need right now.
What people don’t understand about El Paso is this is the biggest small town in the world. We’re separated from the rest of the country, you know? The nearest big city is Albuquerque, four hours away. We have this little island effect here. We average only about 15 to 18 murders per year, so to have 22 in one day is unthinkable. Right now, the feeling across the city is anger. Because somebody came in from outside of our peaceful community and targeted us.
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