EL PASO, Texas -- "Moving forward," that's the message from the Ceilo Vista Walmart store's general manager Robert Evans.
He sat down Wednesday afternoon with ABC-7 to talk about how he -- along his 350-plus associates -- will help everyone heal from the El Paso tragedy of Aug. 3 as they reopen the store to shoppers on Thursday.
It's been just over 100 days since the store shut down following the mass shooting that left 22 people dead and 26 injured scattered throughout the 220,000-square foot superstore. The mood is respectful, yet some of the store associates are excited to move forward and greet people at the revamped store.
"At the beginning you could see some hugs and tears, and now you see some hugs and some smiles and laughter, so that's really encouraging to see that they've gone through some healing process just working together side by side," Evans said. "I've been there to support them, in overcoming what happened August third, and giving the sense of hope at the end of this tragic event that happened, and that they can get back to some kind of a normal life."
Evans also spoke of the character and resilience of his staff when asked what message he would have for other business leaders trying to move forward after an incident of this magnitude.
"I would say something like this takes a strong leader and it also takes a strong group of individuals to overcome this and I've been very fortunate to have both," Evans explained.
The exterior of Ceilo Vista store building used to be tan and brown, but now it has a blue background and new lettering.
It's different inside the store too, but aside from the small interior area where ABC-7 interviewed Evans, our crew was not allowed to take additional photos or video. Evans also would not talk about new security measures at his store, but Walmart did send out a corporate statement on the topic.
“We typically do not share our security measures publicly because it could make them less effective. We will continue our long-standing practice of regularly evaluating our staffing, training, procedures, and technology... which are designed to provide a safe working and shopping experience,” the statement said.
When the store reopens at 9 a.m. Thursday, Walmart officials said it will be a respectful opening with no fanfare.
Off the roughly 400 employees at the store prior to the mass shooting, virtually all remain with Walmart -- and the vast majority are returning to work at the Cielo Vista location.