His slow recovery was marked by frustration and dreams of returning to his home in Chihuahua City, Mexico, after being hit by an assault rifle bullet that damaged his stomach, intestines, and renal artery. In late February, the doctors gave the laundry mechanic permission to go on the four-hour return trip he and his family had prayed for in a Texas hospital during those long months.
But within a few days of his return, he fell back and has been locked in a hospital room since the coronavirus pandemic threatens his recovery.
“It is devastating. We came home hoping to regain our lives,” said De Alba Montes’ wife Oliva Rodriguez Mariscal, who sits for hours on her husband̵
On Monday’s one-year anniversary, when a shooter opened fire in a busy Walmart store, killing 23 people and leaving another 23 wounded, there will be no crowds gathering at memorials or strangers to honor the dead.
The family of Arturo Benavides, an army veteran and retired bus driver who was killed in the shooting, were asked to invite only 10 people to an inauguration ceremony for a bus transfer center that was renamed in his honor. His niece Melissa Tinajero said relatives are considering visiting the construction site for the August 1 event in shifts.
On the eve of the first anniversary, the families, survivors and officials of the victims took part in a commemoration ceremony in Ascarate Park, where a permanent medicinal monument is to be erected. They kept themselves socially distant and wore masks when the lawyers for the victims of group crimes wore purple T-shirts and contained photos of the 23 people killed in the shootings.
El Pasoans will ride or walk through a path of Luminarias – small paper lanterns – in Ascarate Park on Monday, or light their own Luminarias on their verandas. Others will see virtual memorial services.
The pandemic, the mayor said, has limited the city’s ability to honor victims and made it difficult for this binational community to heal together. It prevents many survivors and victim families living across the U.S.-Mexico border from entering the country due to corona virus travel restrictions, and forces many others to withhold one of the basic ways of interacting.
“Our standard greeting is an abrazo (hug). We hug and kiss and that’s us,” Margo told CNN. “This pandemic says that you can’t and it complicates who we are, our normal nature and culture.”
‘He looked at me and there was peace in his eyes. He said to me: “I was one of God’s angels,” Gonzalez recalls.
The reunion took place in a park in El Paso with Gonzalez, her mother, who had been with her during the shootout, and the man with face masks. They stood some distance away and followed the guidelines of social distancing when they remembered the minutes of terror that marked their lives.
But Gonzalez says she can’t stop herself from leaning over and hugging the man even when her mother jumped up to warn her about Covid-19.
“A sacred emotion came over us and we hugged each other hard, but with our masks,” Gonzalez told CNN. “It was something I had to do.”
Pandemic disrupted healing process, says expert
For many people, healing from the prolonged trauma of the mass shooting due to the pandemic could be even more difficult, experts say.
“The pandemic itself involves many of the same experiences and risk factors … like any other trauma or emergency in terms of how it affects people’s lives,” said Tuma.
Some of these factors include death, economic hardship, and just the worry and fear of getting sick with the virus, he said.
According to Kristen Daugherty, CEO of EHN, some callers initially asked why El Paso, and in particular the Hispanic community, were targeted, while others felt guilty about changing their plans to go to Walmart this morning and hers Last minute plans had changed.
Later, callers tried to relieve people’s fear.
“People called and said you know I am a Spanish person, I am afraid to go to the store and children are afraid to go back to school,” she said.
At present, “the crisis hotline and crisis services are almost the same overall,” said the agency.
“I think it changed the way people saw the need to take care of themselves psychologically, even if it was just talking to someone who logs on to someone,” said Daugherty.
Approximately 120 people affected by the Walmart shootings still have access to advisory services, and many others have asked for help since the pandemic started.
“It hurts us all,” says the mayor
A year has passed since the massacre and the accused shooter were waiting for the trial in local and state cases.
Patrick Crusius, a 22-year-old man from Allen, Texas, has been exposed to 90 federal crimes, including hate crimes and nearly a dozen state-level capital murders, according to court documents. He didn’t plead guilty.
Authorities said he went to El Paso to kill immigrants and Mexicans in the border town of West Texas.
“It hurts all of us. We were attacked by a white Supremacist … an evil white Supremacist 700 miles away,” said Margo, the city’s mayor, adding that the shooter “would never have come from the region.” It is not who we are. It is not what we are. “
A federal status conference is planned for October.
A year after De Alba Montes, his wife, and their 10-year-old daughter stopped in Walmart to buy school supplies before breakfast and were injured in the massacre, there is no clear end to his hospitalization in sight.
On some days he is overwhelmed by sadness and desperate to go home, on other days he greets his wife in a good mood and tells her in Spanish “al rato salimos de esta, vas a ver que todo va a pasar”.
Her nightmare will go away, he tells his wife, because despite the setbacks, her belief is stronger.
“God is the only one who can help us overcome this. God will work the miracle that we can leave the hospital healthy,” said his wife Rodriguez Mariscal.