Davis was the first to check on me. Thousands of miles away, yet he knew what was unfolding in El Paso before I did. And he wanted to make sure I stayed away.
Incredulous, I quickly checked the news. It was worse than I had feared.
But the hate that brought that young man all the way from Dallas to inflict so much pain and fear in our beautiful community was overpowered tonight by the love of El Paso.
Tonight our community came together – it looked like thousands of us – at Ponder Park just behind the Cielo Vista Mall where this hate-filled act took place. We came to pray together at an interfaith vigil. To share our pain, our grief. To support one another. To show the nation, and the world, who we are. And what it means to be #ElPasoStrong.
There was music. There were beautiful prayers and heartfelt messages offered by leaders of the Catholic, Protestant, B’nai B’rith, Buddhist, and Muslim faiths. I could feel the healing and the power in the words. I knew Love’s presence was among us and within us.
There’s so much love and warmth in this city. I think that’s what I felt right from the beginning when I first came here. And that’s why I have felt so connected to this community.
I had been planning to write my next post about my trip to Alaska, what I experienced there, the insights I received. But that will have to wait for another time.
Because tonight, this is what I want to write about more than anything. The unbelievable example of love this community has shown.
For one another. For the stranger. For the immigrant. For the suffering.
Yes, the love in El Paso is so strong. So very strong.
In one very powerful exercise, a female speaker asked us to turn to someone next to us that we didn’t know and ask them if they were alright.
I turned to a stranger. “Are you alright?” I asked sincerely.
Her eyes moistened, as she said, “I’ll get through it.”
Immediately I felt my own tears.
And then she asked me the same question, and I agreed. Yes, we will get through it. And I’m glad I’m here.
Then the speaker said if we noticed that person got teary eyed, give them a hug. And so this stranger and I hugged. Our hearts mutually hurting for this place we love. And simultaneously beginning to heal.
At one point during the event, we heard car engines revving as they drove around the park. I heard shouts but could only make out the word “Alabama.” Strange and unnerving. People turned to see what was happening. Faces concerned, apprehensive.
This is what such an act of terror can do. Put people on edge. Make a once very safe community not feel so safe. Create a reason to have a large police presence at a gathering that not so long ago wouldn’t have required any police.
I know that this past year things have changed in terms of threats being wielded at El Paso and at the hospitality centers where I volunteer. Knowing the hate that’s been growing unchecked, I take these threats seriously and have been concerned. But I continue to do what I do, where I do it, because of this love.
As Bishop Seitz said, prayer heals.
Our community’s love is much more powerful than hate.
We know how to love our neighbors, no matter what side of the Rio Grande they live on.
And love is stronger than death.
Most importantly, El Paso will always love. No matter what is wielded at us. That’s what we know how to do.
Maybe some people at the top could learn from this community’s example.