El Paso Walmart Reopens After Shooting
NOEL KING, HOST:
The Walmart in El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were killed in a shooting back in August reopens today. The store has been renovated, and a memorial is under construction at the site. Mallory Falk of member station KERA has this story.
MALLORY FALK, BYLINE: It was on August 3 that the alleged gunman drove 10 hours from his Dallas suburb to El Paso to target Mexicans in an attack. He opened fire in what's known here as the Mexican Walmart, a store close to the border that caters to shoppers from both sides of the Rio Grande. That Saturday morning, many here were stocking up on back-to-school supplies, and the attack stunned this community. Deborah Anchondo's younger brother, Andre, was killed inside the Walmart, along with his wife, Jordan. Their 2-month-old son survived.
Standing in a parking lot near a makeshift memorial for the victims, Anchondo says when she heard that the store was going to reopen, she was supportive.
DEBORAH ANCHONDO: Honestly, I think it should just reopen. Yes, do the renovations. Do whatever they need to do. Just so it's not a constant haunting of this reminder of what happened.
FALK: She says passing the store on the highway brings a knot to her stomach. She'd like to see it active again.
ANCHONDO: Open and, you know, just, like, normal.
FALK: The store has been fully renovated with gleaming floors, a new raised ceiling and a different layout than before, plus heightened security. In the parking lot, a construction crew is still at work building a memorial that will be 22 aluminum pillars joining together and forming a 30-foot candle-like structure that will shine in the dark.
ROBERT EVANS: We hope for it to represent unity and how we can come together in this community to overcome this tragedy that happened on August 3.
FALK: That's Robert Evans, the Cielo Vista Walmart manager. Sitting by the pharmacy with pop music streaming through the speakers, he says many of his employees wanted to return and reclaim this store.
EVANS: They were pretty excited about coming back into the building and being able to make this part of their rebuilding, as well.
FALK: For many here, reopening the store is symbolic.
ADRIANA HERNANDEZ: It's, like, the point of union between the two cities, between El Paso and Juarez.
FALK: Adriana Hernandez grew up in Juarez. Most weekends, she and her family crossed the border to shop here. Their first stop was always the McDonald's inside the Walmart, where they'd meet up with relatives who lived in El Paso for breakfast. Hernandez says the store reopening is a sign that the gunman couldn't fully disrupt the binational way of life here, but she acknowledges that things have changed. Her parents have stopped their weekend trips to El Paso, worried that Mexicans could again be targeted here.
HERNANDEZ: Whenever they need something from here, like, they just call me and, hey, can you bring us that? I'll pay it. Here. Me or my brothers, we just buy this stuff and then take them the stuff to Juarez.
FALK: Not everyone here supports the store's reopening. Some say the building should have been razed and turned into a public space dedicated to the victims. But for Adriana Hernandez, the store plays a vital role in this community, even though she may not shop here again.
HERNANDEZ: I'm planning to go to the memorial just to pay my respects, but to shop around, no. I'm glad it's opening, but I'm not going.
FALK: But many here say they do plan to return, seeing it as a way to take back some control over their lives. For NPR News, I'm Mallory Falk in El Paso.
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