Fear in the wake of the El Paso shooting

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: It’s Thursday the 26th of September, 2019. Thanks for listening and good morning! I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Before we get started, Megan, we need to talk about pre-rolls.

BASHAM: Ah, yes. The pre-rolls! That’s the first thing you hear: “The World and Everything in It is made possible in part by listeners like us.”  Are we running out of pre-rolls or something?

REICHARD: Yeah, we are running low, so this is a call for you to shine your public elocution skills!  To learn how to record one, just go to worldandeverything.org, click on “engage,” then “record a pre-roll.”

BASHAM: Right, everything you need to know is right there. Worldandeverything.org, engage, record a pre-roll.

REICHARD: Eager to hear what creative ways you’ll do those. 

Okay, now on to a much more somber subject: how evil creates ripple effects.

Last month’s mass shooting in El Paso left 22 people dead and two dozen injured. Before the shooting, the gunman allegedly posted a manifesto online saying the attack was a response to what he called the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” The FBI is investigating the mass shooting as an act of domestic terrorism.

BASHAM: The shooter was from a Dallas suburb. WORLD Radio’s Katie Gaultney recently visited a Dallas ministry to Hispanic immigrants. There she got a sense of how the shooting has affected their community.

KATIE GAULTNEY, REPORTER: At Casa del Lago, you can feel the “back to school” excitement.

AUDIO: [Sound from classroom]

About 80 adults and 30 kids fill the harvest gold halls, heading to class. The building hosts a Spanish language Presbyterian church Friday through Sunday. But midweek, it’s a Christian ministry for Hispanic immigrants and their young children.

CLASSROOM: Listen to me say this, “small.” Good job. Listen to Victor, Victor you say this: “Small.” Escuchado? Dijo, “Sssssmall.” No dijo, “eh-small.”

Immigrants come here to learn English as a second language—or sometimes third, if they spoke an indigenous language back home. They also participate in workshops that help with parenting, or topics like how to register children for school or open a bank account. And there’s a weekly Bible study. Around the corner from the adult classes, you’ll find a bustling pre-primary education program.

CLASSROOM: Gracias Dios, gracias Dios, por esta dia, por esta dia, y gracias…

Casa del Lago means “lake house.” Nestled between a self-storage facility and an auto repair shop, it’s not the retreat that might typically come to mind when you think “lake house.” The name comes from the primarily Hispanic Bachman Lake neighborhood the ministry resides in.

While things are humming along like usual in the classroom, the adult students say something has changed in the neighborhood. They no longer feel safe in their own community.

Eric Clay works at Casa del Lago.

CLAY: From both our students and even from our Latino members on the staff, um, there’s a palpable sense of fear in that community.

Last month, a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso. His goal? To kill Hispanics. Clay and other Casa del Lago staff are hearing from many of their students that the shooting—perpetrated by someone who lived just 20 miles north of their neighborhood—has them on edge.

Betsy Araujo directs Casa del Lago’s children’s program. She said their clients are even concerned about the building’s signage.

BETSY: Yeah, they have shown and, and mentioned that they’re concerned because one of our ads outside says we speak Spanish. So they had mentioned, “Oh, it says we speak Spanish, you know, can we be a target or are we being a target because of that?”

And it’s changed the way some of them go about their daily lives.

BETSY: They were concerned and of course for their children’s safety at school as well for themselves, you know, going to the grocery store as a family now you know what, maybe the dad will go only … and they were sad, concerned.

Sanjuana, an adult student originally from Mexico, said it’s hardest to see how it affects the kids. Here she is, talking about visiting a church carnival with her 8-year-old son. Araujo does the translating.

SANJUANA: So we were outside, there was music. And then suddenly he told me, mom, please, let’s go home. … Uh, I asked my son, why? … I mean, we’re having fun. … And he was like, no, there’s a lot of people and we’re outside the church and there’s music so someone can come and, and shoot and we’re not gonna be able to hear the shootings, so please, let’s go home. So I was, uh, my heart was really broken… 

Vanessa Villahermosa, a staff member originally from Puerto Rico, agrees. She says her 7-year-old son has felt insecure about his heritage since the shooting. Again, Araujo translates.

VANESSA: Now he will, when we go out, he will tell me don’t speak Spanish. They can listen to you and then something can happen to us. Please don’t speak Spanish.

Villahermosa said she’s leaning on God’s promises to help her cope with her fear and reassure her children.

VANESSA: You know, we’re secure and we’re safe in Christ, in the Lord. So that’s your safety place, being in the Lord. He protects you.

Mariela is an advanced English student at Casa del Lago. Her sister lives in El Paso and went to that same Walmart the night before the shooting. In a group discussion, she reminded her fellow students they should pray for more than their peace and safety. They should pray for people with hate in their hearts.

MARIELA: Eh, praying also for, for the persons … thinking of shooting or doing something bad to others. So also praying for, for those people that the Lord put a different heart in them.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Katie Gaultney reporting from Dallas.

(AP Photo/Andres Leighton) Texas state police cars block the access to the Walmart store in the aftermath of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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