For all of us in the region, Aug. 3 is seared into our memories for the rest of our lives.
Many of us will remember the moment in our Saturday routine we received the regrettable news. For me, I was out of town for the summer, not due to return for another two weeks. When I heard the initial reports, I did not fully appreciate the severity of the attack. Within moments, friends and family shared pictures and videos. I stared at my phone in disbelief.
It seemed unthinkable this sort of tragedy could happen at home. It took someone from outside our community to destroy that bubble. Among the mixed passions I felt, I was upset I was not home for the somber day.
Despite my sadness from the tragic images, I was also inspired by our community’s response – from first responders to everyday people. Among the countless images displaying our community’s selflessness that day and within the coming weeks, one stood out in particular to me. As shared in a Reddit post (and subsequently in national news outlets), our neighbors rushed in numbers into blood donations centers.
Do you remember when the centers were overwhelmed and asked donors to make appointments for days? Within the first weekend alone, El Paso and Las Cruces residents donated over 1,000 units of blood.
To me, this image represents among the best of the region and encapsulates the strong sense of community that exists here. As a murderer came into our community to take life away from us, we responded by giving life back. Without these gracious donors, it is likely we would have lost more lives that day.
This year, as a pandemic ravages the country, it is understandable to feel anxious and alone. Our health-care system is stressed, and our blood banks are more strained compared to any given year. Earlier this summer, Miners, Aggies, Red Raiders, and Tejanos joined forces for a regional blood drive. However, more is still needed to fulfill the regional shortage.
This year has kept us apart on many dimensions aside from physically, yet I believe our nation is making some progress with renewed calls for social justice. We have a long way to go, but I believe this region can lead the nation by standing true to our sense of community.
As we approach the first anniversary of this infamous day, it is my belief that among the best ways to remember the 23 lives lost on Aug. 3 this weekend, and the coming first weekends of August, is to respond like we did on that day – give life back. Our neighbors continue to be in need of blood, and we should continue to donate blood. You can donate on the East Side or the West Side.
Cover photo: People line up at United Blood Service on Zaragoza in East El Paso after blood was needed for victims on Aug. 3, 2019. (Michaela Román / El Paso Matters)