EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) — When the shots first rang out on Aug. 3, 2019, the girls of the El Paso Fusion youth soccer team were outside the El Paso Walmart fundraising.
The fateful day that killed 23 people and injured 23 more hit EP Fusion hard. Some of them lost their parents and grandparents, but the girls all lost a piece of their childhood that day.
Even though things will never be the same, they have overcome so much together.
“We weren’t even supposed to be there that day. We just got the slot open,” said Fusion assistant coach Benny McGuire. His daughter, Madison, plays on the team. “Through their life, it’s going to take away a piece of them that they didn’t have a choice to have taken away.”
Life hasn’t been the same since McGuire, Madison, and the other EP Fusion soccer players and coaches were in the middle of the massacre 365 days ago.
“I have to stay strong for her. I haven’t had a chance to melt down on my own and really process everything,” McGuire said.
Among the 23 victims was Jorge Calvillo, the father of Fusion head coach Luis Calvillo, who was also shot five times and had an extensive recovery.
Also shot that day was another assistant coach: Guillermo “Memo” Garcia. The man they called “Tank” was in the hospital for eight months before dying in April.
“I told my kids that we did not lose him, we just gained an angel. Now we need to make him proud,” his wife, Jessica “Coca” Garcia, said at the time of his death.
“It kind of set us back a step, because we had the hopes and aspirations that he would make it out,” McGuire said.
Trauma affects everyone differently. But for McGuire’sdaughter, the pain is evident.
“Prior to all that, Madison was fun and outgoing and goofy. Now she’s real timid and toned down,” he said.
McGuire says Madison journals, draws pictures and listens to music to cope with everything: “Right now she’s into the Hamilton Broadway show. She’s memorized it all.”
But, there have been other guiding lights … shepherds leading El Paso Fusion out of the darkness.
“Our first reaction as a family is to take care of our own. In that situation, that was just my first natural reaction,” said former El Paso Locomotive FC midfielder Sebastian Velasquez.
Velasquez and his Locomotive teammates jumped in to help EP Fusion immediately, meeting the girls for a pizza party in the days following the shooting. It was the soccer community enveloping the team, even hosting a charity game to help with the healing process.
“Soccer is a community. It’s a large community all over the world but we all care for each other in times of need,” Locomotive forward Omar Salgado said.
At times, it was the Locomotive players gaining strength from the little girls that had been through so much.
“Their fight to recovery gave us strength to go out on the field and win games. I honestly believe because of that event, that’s why El Paso got so far in that tournament,” Velasquez said.
Los Locos advanced to the USL Championship’s Western Conference Finals in the inaugural season in November 2019.
It’s been a full year. Nothing will ever be the same, not for the families of those lost, not for the city of El Paso, and not for a group of girls robbed of their innocence. But that doesn’t mean the girls’ lives are over.
“Seeing how strong these little girls are gives me so much hope that I know that the change that our world needs can come from any one of them. Maybe all of them,” McGuire said.
The trauma of Aug. 3, 2019, doesn’t define Madison or McGuire or the EP Fusion, nor does it define the Sun City.
To prove that point, on the one-year anniversary of El Paso’s darkest day, Madison bravely told her father she wanted to return to the Walmart and go inside. None of the girls had been back since the day of the shooting; they hadn’t been to a Walmart at all.
So, a little girl put on her bravest face and stood up to the hatred of that day to prove that she will rise above.