A tale of two days at Cielo Vista: June 2 and August 3, 2019

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.

7 Replies to “A tale of two days at Cielo Vista: June 2 and August 3, 2019”

  1. Greg, your personal account really puts the news story in perspective. Our society is so sick! I pray that it isn’t terminal and that healing can come in time.

  2. I’m sitting on the other side of the U.S./Canadian border, the longest, undefended boarder on the planet. As a neighbour, who has lived peacefully for 72 years within 65 miles or less of this border, it is heartbreaking to sit here and watch what appears to be the dissolution of a social structure and a democracy that was considered to be a beacon in the world.
    The violence and hatred that leaks out in these terrible events reverberate far beyond the U.S. borders. There seems to be a dark force at play in the world and I pray that all of us may find a way too begin to heal the fear and rage that seems to be overtaking it at this time. All of us have a part to play here.
    I praise Marianne Williamson for her fearless campaign in this run up to the Presidential Election. Her voice is being heard, and she’s gaining respect as she calls on all the people to rise up and join her in transforming the U.S. democracy and returning it to the people. The whole world must sit up and listen, and work to heal within and bring love and peace, now. May all be blessed. Peace ✌🏻

  3. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. said: Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it… Thank you Greg for your sharing.

  4. El Paso is my hometown. I worked at Cielo Vista mall after graduating from high school. I remember back then all those years ago hearing about a mass shooting at a McDonald’s in …San Ysidro Ca. and I couldn’t get over how shockingly sad that was. Never heard of anything like that during those days. Never ever would I have imagined it happening right where I lives and worked. Heartbreaking.

  5. Greg
    I and my wife, Brenda, along with most Australians, are shocked by the latest shooting tragedies in the USA and our prayers are with all who have been touched by these appalling acts.

    We are impressed with your and Patricia’s selfless humanitarian and human rights work in Mexico and the USA, Greg. What you are doing requires much courage and great love,

    You both are an inspiration to us.

  6. Thank you all, for your kind and thoughtful comments. In a few days, I’ll be going to Los Angeles to attend a conference organized by the gang prevention and intervention group Homeboy Industries. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to learn from a wonderful group who are responding to fear and attack with love.

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