It has been quite an emotional week, mostly from sadness. You probably know the feeling: your lips start to quiver, then you tighten your cheeks and fight back the urge to sob. It can hit at any time.
Yesterday, while in the shower, I let loose with my second good cry for El Pasoans and Daytonians who are grieving the massacres.
No Longer a Resident, But Still Connected
At the age of eighteen, I moved away from El Paso to attend UT. I stayed and started to call Austin, home, while keeping in touch with EP as much as I could. (In their heart nobody ever leaves for good.) And when we moved to Taos, NM, El Paso always figured in our travel plans.
Chris and I would stop to visit my mom, dad, sister and other relatives. I had lost touch with many of my Austin High buddies, except those still living in my Grandview neighborhood.
Now, after more than 40 years in Central Texas, I'm trying to figure out how I was able to keep my El Paso soul and find solace for my grief.
At the school I last taught, our motto was "Loyal Forever!" I guess that's the way I feel about El Paso. The same way other expatriates likely feel at times like these for their Dayton, Parkland, Pittsburgh, Boston, New York, Houston, Thousand Oaks, Sebring, Chicago, Las Vegas or Santa Fe, Texas, and everywhere else massacres have happened.
El Paso - Austin Connection
Friday night, I was at an art opening on Cesar Chavez Street in East Austin, and at the house next door was a gathering in support of a woman from El Paso. I wasn't surprised.
There is such a strong Austin / El Paso connection. Many of my EP friends who attended UT stayed in the region to raise families, as have most of my blog readers. At one time or another all my siblings have lived here, except one. Four of us remain.
I have nephews and neices living in Austin who have had a good taste of the El Paso experience: the unique style of Mexican food; the Spanish language spoken everywhere; kind, unassuming people, and other qualities too numerous to mention.
There's also the ever present Mexican influence, which is why we were targeted. I am sure everybody is still reeling from last weekend's tragic events.
Birds of a Feather
My long time friend remarked, "I couldn't understand what Boston Strong was all about. I thought, they should get over it and move on . . . But now I get it."
My friend Sylvia, who lost friends in the Twin Towers on 9/11, explained to me what “Any City” Strong means. It means residents genuinely looking out for each other, showing that you care for your community.
Before 9/11, New Yorkers always had a reputation of being aloof, in a hurry to get somewhere, with no time for anybody or anything else. That's not the case anymore, Sylvia claims. Now, they go out of their way to help each other, to see if they're good and, most of all, safe.
Process and Healing *
El Paso and Dayton will recover. They have no choice. But these two towns are changed forever. The good news is that people, for the most part, are resilient--able to withstand and recover from difficult conditions. But to do that we need social support, most importantly from friends and family.
Communities need to ensure that those affected by the trauma of mass shootings are connected to services and support for the duration. Help is standing by. When the El Paso and Dayton shootings fall out of the news cycle (and that day will come), the grief and pain will remain.
Adults have to brave it out and be role models; show children how to cope with this travesty. Skillful and caring teachers and counselors can work to create a trusting environment where children feel safe, and where adults are responsive to their questions and concerns.
*Much of this information was paraprased from an interview with Dr. Robin Gurwitch of Duke University on ABC News, 8/6/19.
El Paso Strong / Dayton Strong
Together, we expatriots and residents of El Paso and Dayton will find a way through.
A tearful, young Hispanic woman was quoted in the aftermath of El Paso, "It's sad knowing that this happened, and it breaks my heart, honestly.
"But El Paso is strong. We're a strong community. We help each other. I think we will get through this. We will. We're very strong people."
Keep the Faith,