Ponder Park memorial service: Many El Pasoans personally knew victims

El Paso Strong

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) Eleven days after the August 3 mass shooting at an East El Paso Wal-Mart, the entire El Paso community came together city-wide to remember the 22 lives lost and many others injured in that tragedy.

The City of El Paso coordinated a memorial service held at Southwest University Park while simulcasting the service at multiple locations across town, including Ponder Park in East El Paso, just one block away from the site of where the mass shooting took place.

As El Pasoans entered Ponder Park, many donned ‘El Paso Proud’ T-shirts and signs honoring the victims, for this was the neighborhood the gunman opened fire in, killing and injuring loved ones and neighbors from the area. 

“This is my community, Cielo Vista is where I live, it was my Wal-Mart, my Sam’s, my Cielo Vista Mall,” Mary Yanez, the LULAC District 4 Director said.

The Ponder Park simulcast memorial service is just a short walk away from the makeshift memorial outside of the Cielo Vista Wal-Mart, created by the community with flowers and candles.

“That monument that they want to build should be on Ponder Park which is the closest to that memorial that the community has built,” Yanez said.
Many El Pasoans at Ponder Park told KTSM they personally knew victims from the shooting.

“I did know one of the guys, Turi, (Arturo) Benavides, he used to be a bus driver there,” Francisco Armendariz said.

While many others lost some of their own.

“I have a relative who passed away during the shooting,” Dolores Hernandez said.

Hernandez told KTSM she was a former employee of the Cielo Vista Wal-Mart who still knows many of the employees who were working at the store when the shooting happened. She said her loved one who died was just there buying snacks from a team who was fundraising outside the front of the store that morning.

“Luis Calvillo, he called him, he was raising money for the kids and he stopped by just to get some chicarrones and he was one of the first ones who died,” Hernandez said.

However, through the tears and through the pain, the El Paso community looked to heal together and sending a message to all the victims.
“Unfortunately life goes on, but it’s going to be hurting for a long time. We won’t forget them, we won’t,” Hernandez said.

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