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A Mural Takes On New, Tragic Meaning In A Mourning El Paso


I'm David Greene in El Paso, Texas, which is one of two U.S. cities experiencing a massacre this weekend. Twenty people were killed here. Nine people were murdered in a rampage in Dayton, Ohio. Which brings us to this painful coincidence - Manuel and Patricia Oliver lost their son in a different shooting, the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last year. They've been traveling, pushing for stricter gun laws, and they'd arrived here in El Paso, Texas, having no idea what this city was about to go through.

Stella Chavez of member station KERA is sitting next to me here in El Paso. She's been reporting on the massacre here and joins me this morning. Hi there, Stella.


GREENE: So you came across these two parents from Parkland last night. Explain to me what this experience of being here was like for them.

CHAVEZ: Well, it was a very moving moment for them. Their son, Joaquin, would have turned 19 yesterday, on Sunday. And obviously, they had already planned to unveil this mural. But instead of just making it about their son, they really made it about the entire community of El Paso. And Manuel, you know, urged the people there to take action, that they need to speak out, they need to advocate for stricter gun laws, and that their son, Joaquin, was an activist, and that he was a advocate of the immigrant community. And you can hear Manuel in this next clip speaking very passionately.


MANUEL OLIVER: This is the moment to talk about guns.



OLIVER: We know what those families are going through. Their life has changed forever. And they expect you to do something about it.


OLIVER: So El Paso could be that city that is the before and after mass shootings.

GREENE: It's just amazing to have a family who went through something in a totally different part of the country being here and sort of sharing in this tragic moment. I mean, obviously, I guess we study each of these events, like Parkland, like Dayton, and here in El Paso this weekend, to try and understand them as best we can. It looks like the shooter here may have written some kind of manifesto, hateful against Hispanics, against immigrants. What impact is that having on people who live here?

CHAVEZ: Well, it's hitting them very hard. I mean, I've spoken to a number of people who say they're afraid. They're worried about more people coming to this community, either to shoot up a place or just to be very hateful. And they really are placing the blame on the rhetoric that's coming out of President Trump's administration. And so one of the things that I've noticed in talking to people is that they're really stressing how close-knit this community is. Even though it is a large city, they really tout the fact that they're like a small town. Many people have grown up here, have lived here, many, for most of their lives.

GREENE: Stella Chavez from member station KERA. Thanks so much, Stella, for all your reporting.

CHAVEZ: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.