Today’s deadly shooting at the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso hit me hard, in part because it reminded me of my own day there just two months before. Two very different days…
• • •
On June 2, my Mexican friend Aarón and I go from Ciudad Juárez to the Cielo Vista Mall to do some shopping. Throughout the trip, I send photos to my Mexican partner, Patricia, and her daughter, Marina.
This mall is popular with Mexicans who cross the border to shop, which is one reason Aarón knows about it. His wife loves the place. There is even a bus that goes from Juárez straight to this mall. Virtually all of the clerks and other store personnel are bilingual, to serve the diverse clientele. We see many Mexicans there, along with Mexican-Americans and many white Americans and people of other ethnicities as well.
The overall mood is light-hearted and festive; everyone is out for a pleasant weekend afternoon of shopping. Everyone we encounter, from store clerks to food servers to fellow customers, is as friendly as can be. People of all ages are having a good time. The Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, white people and everyone else mix without anyone apparently giving it a thought. We are all fellow human beings enjoying a day at the mall.
I buy two pairs of pants, a notebook, some Butterfinger candy bars that I cannot get in Mexico, and the computer monitor that I’m looking at now as I type this. Later, through photos and video, I proudly show Patricia and Marina my new acquisitions. A great day with my friend and the kind people of El Paso. Mission accomplished!
• • •
On August 3, a young white man named Patrick Crusius, armed with an assault rifle, goes alone to the Cielo Vista Mall to do some shooting. (Note: Of course, from a legal standpoint he is rightly identified as the “alleged” shooter or the “suspect” at this point, but there is no real doubt that he did it.)
Surely he has picked this place in part because it is popular with Mexicans. For according to the manifesto he likely wrote before making the trip (investigators are “reasonably confident” that he is the author), he wants to stop a “Hispanic invasion,” to shoot “invaders” like Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and “race mixing” Hispanics including, presumably, Mexicans with white partners. (If he had seen Patricia and me walking hand in hand, she probably would have been toast; according to the manifesto, I would have been spared because, as a white American, I could still be convinced of the error of my ways.)
He changes the mood of the day in an instant; the pleasant weekend morning of shopping is transformed into a nightmare as he takes aim and fires at his apparent “enemies” again and again. Witness Miguel Rodriguez, at the Walmart shopping for a toy for his 7-year-old son, ducks to the ground as (in his words) a man starts “shooting everyone, aisle by aisle, with rage.”
The bloody toll: As of this writing, at least 20 are dead and 26 wounded. These numbers will surely rise over the coming days. This deeply disturbed fellow human being, whose social media postings (before they were deleted) were filled with white supremacist rants, pro-Trump propaganda, “build the wall” and “send them back,” has done what he set out to do. Mission, apparently, accomplished.
• • •
What kind of “day at the mall” will our future hold? A day of love or a day of hate? A day of festive joining or a day of enraged carnage? The choice is ours. I pray that all of us will learn to choose love and joining.
P.S. Loving thoughts and prayers for our brothers and sisters impacted by Sunday’s Dayton, Ohio, shooting as well.