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Twice a Fighter: Walmart shooting survivor reflects on healing journey

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) – El Pasoan Maribel Veach still remembers the exact moment gunfire erupted inside the Cielo Vista Walmart.

Veach was inside the store when the sentenced killer, Patrick Crusius, began his calculated attack.

She remembers precisely where she was standing. The front cash register preparing to make her regular weekly grocery purchase.

Sounds of loud gunshots, people screaming in panic and scrambling to escape continue to plague her mind four years later.

“You just heard it instantly. You heard it. No matter how much you ran, you heard it, and you started hearing the screaming and you started hearing people running. And you started hearing people just trying to get away. It was instant. It was fast. It was horrible,” she said.

The sentenced shooter drove 10 hours from Allen, TX, to carry out his racially motivated attack. Crusius would enter the Walmart and murder 23 people, injuring 22 others on Aug. 3, 2019.

El Paso Police estimate up to 3,000 people were inside the Walmart when he began to fire his weapon, Veach was one of those inside of the store.

She escaped without physical injuries, but was transformed emotionally. Days after the shooting Veach began to understand the trauma she was experiencing.

“You constantly think, can this happen again? There was so many months that I couldn't even go to a store because I was so scared of something happening. Triggers, you have triggers of loud sounds. Just being in the store just for me, being at a cash register because I was right there and like just even being at a cash register and wanting to pay your mind goes back to that very moment when you were there.”

A close family member recommended Veach seek professional help. She turned to therapy.

She was able to learn mechanisms to help with triggers and she was even able to get closure against the attacker.

As she was on her healing journey, she would receive a life-altering diagnosis. Last September, she was diagnosed with type 2B breast cancer.

“You think, am I going to die? Obviously, you think am I going to be able to handle all the treatments? Is my body going to be strong enough? Am I going to be strong enough? Is it going to hurt? You think all these things and you wonder, am I going to be able to get through this because you don't know. It's very, very scary,” she told ABC-7.

Veach swiftly began to receive treatment.

“You start to notice the changes in your body. You start to notice how bad you feel. Your hair falls out. You can't eat. All you want to do is sleep. It's very, very, very grueling on your body."

Throughout both healing journeys, Veach depended on her faith and her family. She is a mother of a six-year-old.

“I never gave up. I focused on my blessings. God is good all the time. I will heal. And I still to this day, truly believe that I will heal because I have so much more to still before,” she said.

She would undergo multiple rounds of treatment, but tests would show there were still signs of cancer in her body.

Today, she continues to fight.

"I think it has made me a better person ironically. I went through the most horrible thing that anybody could ever go through but I think I am the more beautiful person because of it,” she said.

Twice A Fighter airs Thursday, August 3rd at 10 PM, only on ABC-7.

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Rosemary Montañez

ABC-7 reporter and weekend anchor


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