Dear Mr. President:
Today is a tragic day to visit El Paso.
Less than a week ago, 22 of our own were killed as they shopped in a neighborhood store, as they prepared for their weekends, as they provided for their families.
Most of them were from El Paso. Eight were from our sister city of Juárez, steps away.
Today, you will find us in the agony of our mourning.
The violence that pierced El Paso, that draws you here today, is not of our own community. An outsider came here, to shatter our city, to murder our neighbors. A white man from another Texas city came to target the more than 80% of us who share Hispanic roots.
We are horrified to have witnessed this violence in our city.
This is not the El Paso we want the world to know. This is a city with a deep tradition of racial harmony. It is a city of warm, compassionate, patriotic, accepting residents who did not deserve this suffering.
But Mr. President, while we are sorry to have seen such violence and felt such pain, one other thing must be said about today.
Today is a very good day to visit El Paso.
Today, in spite of our suffering, you will see the city that makes us proud.
As our neighbors lay bleeding in hospitals, El Paso stood in line, in 104-degree heat, to donate blood, so much blood that organizers had more than they could handle.
As families waited to be reunited with missing loved ones, El Paso quickly brought so much water and ice to their aid that donors were turned away.
When a gunman passed over one man to target others, that man didn’t turn and run. He grabbed soda bottles from the shelves and started throwing, trying to distract the gunman from his evil intent. He was shot twice because of it. His name is Chris Grant. He is from El Paso.
As Grant lost blood and stumbled from the store, a woman helped stop the bleeding. She helped rush him to medical care. She had been shopping on her day off. Her name is Donna Sifford. She has been in El Paso since 1992. She is a port director for Customs and Border Protection.
They met again later at the hospital and embraced. Now, they are friends as well as neighbors.
This is El Paso.
Make no mistake. Today is not a happy day. Our city is in pain. We were targeted by a white supremacist, and we are suffering. We will remember the names of the 22 neighbors who died. Their names are printed here.
The violence of that day may have been a product of his hatred. It was not a product of our community.
Our community did not deserve this.
Our compassion for one another goes back to the city’s founding.
We were pioneers when a basketball coach from a small college we now know as UTEP started five African American players in a national-championship basketball game for the first time — and won.
Fort Bliss, a key U.S. Army base, draws service members from around the world. They make us an international city many times over. When these patriots retire, many are purposeful in making El Paso their home.
When Pope Francis visited the Americas, he chose Juárez to conclude his trip. From there, he could reach out to the world on both sides of the border.
In El Paso, we embrace our relationship with Juárez. We are not separated by a border fence. In El Paso, the border is an opportunity. Commerce helps everyone share in the American dream.
We all want the same thing — we want our country to prosper. That’s not different from your goal for America.
For many of us, our parents were born in Mexico. We are proud of that and we are also proud Americans.
America is our country. We are home.
Not everyone who visits El Paso has understood this.
During a visit to El Paso in April 2017, then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called El Paso “ground zero.” He said our city was “the front lines … where we take our stand” against cartels and human traffickers.
Mr. President, in your February State of the Union address, you claimed that El Paso was “one of our nation’s most dangerous cities” before a border wall was built.
Mr. President, that is not El Paso.
Our city and Juárez were always linked. Today, we are intertwined more than ever. The evil that visited us targeted people from El Paso and Juárez alike. In our sorrow, we are more alike than ever.
Some in our community doubt we will be able to change your view of our border community. But it is important to us that we explain all that is good about El Paso.
In El Paso, when a baby in a onesie is covered in blood in an attack on a neighborhood store, a man scoops her up and races for the exits.
In El Paso, when our neighbors are hurt, people and businesses donate more than $1 million in just two days to help them.
Our people are scared. So many of us feel our city is still viewed as a target.
But El Paso does not lash out in anger, even when we are treated unfairly.
In El Paso, we won’t ever look at someone who is different with prejudice in our hearts.
The hatred that came to us came from an outsider. It did not come from El Paso.
— Tim Archuleta, editor of the El Paso Times.
Photo by Mark Lambie/El Paso Times