(Editor’s note: You can watch the entire community memorial service in the video player appearing at the bottom of this article.)
Leaders from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border told thousands of people gathered in El Paso Wednesday night that love must triumph over hatred in the wake of a mass shooting by a man who authorities believe targeted Mexicans at the Cielo Vista Walmart store.
People lined up hours before the community memorial service and streamed into the baseball stadium in downtown El Paso that could hold about 8,000 people.
Nine circles and 22 stars formed by luminarias — traditional lanterns made from paper bags, sand, and LED lights — adorned the field in honor of the nine people killed in the Dayton, Ohio, mass shooting and the 22 El Paso shooting victims.
The ceremony at Southwest University Park officially commemorated those killed by a gunman who police say confessed to driving from the Dallas area to target Mexicans. In addition to the 22 dead, nearly two dozen others were injured.
“Hate will never overcome our love. Hate will never overcome who we are,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said.
“We are a bilingual family,” he added. “We are successful because of our people. There is nowhere in North America like El Paso-Juárez.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott received a huge applause from the crowd when he said that he would “dismantle the purveyors of hate.”
Abbott announced that Texas would create a new domestic terrorism unit to help “root out the extremist ideologies that fuel hatred and violence in our state.”
One section of the stadium was reserved for Walmart employees such as Rosa Fernandez, 65, an El Paso native. Fernandez heard the shots but did not see the shooter.
“I remember the shots outside in the parking lot,” she said in a mix of Spanish and English. “Seeing the people scattered dead on the ground.”
“We are not racist here,” Fernandez continued. “We never imagined something like this would happen here in El Paso.”
Cynthia Murillo, 27, came to the memorial service to pay her respects to her boss Leo Campos, who was one of those killed. The 22 names were read aloud and of the crowed held up their glowing phones. She praised the bipartisan, binational delegation.
Murillo said she is still scared and confused by the motivations of the shooter.
“It’s trying to wrap your head around how much hate you have to have against a race to do something like that.”
She said that she is avoiding big stores after the shooting.
“But I guess we can’t live in fear forever,” she said.