Texans band together across the state to remember those lost in the shootings in El Paso and Dayton
HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Local officials and advocacy groups in Houston and El Paso are standing in solidarity with the victims and their families of both shooting massacres in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. On Sunday, two vigils were held to call for political change to end gun violence.
The conversation at the vigils were centered much more around a call for action. Local officials including Mayor Sylvester Turner, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, Commissioner Adrian Garcia and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee say it’s about more than just thoughts and prayers at this point. They're now are urging lawmakers to pass sensible gun legislation.
In El Paso, Senator John Cornyn is grieving.
"It's hard to explain how sad we are at this terrible tragedy," he said.
For some local leaders like Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena, the shooting hits close to home.
“My heart just sank. There was a feeling of hopelessness. I mean what do you do? What do you do being so far?” Pena said.
Pena says his wife was in their hometown of El Paso visiting their kids and grandkids when the shots broke out at a Walmart. At the time, Pena says his family was eating at a restaurant across the street.
Pena joined dozens of community members at a candle light vigil at St. Marks Church Sunday night to honor the 29 people that died in the El Paso and Dayton massacres,
Other advocacy groups like Moms Demand Action and March for Our Lives were also in attendance.
Pena is now urging the community to stand up and condemn intolerance and any national rhetoric that supports hatred towards any minority groups.
“The political violence that's going on right now is infecting weak and feeble minds. It’s dangerous and that needs to be addressed,” Pena said.
His words echo a similar call to action from other local leaders at another prayer vigil Sunday afternoon outside the Mickey Leland Federal Building.
“Offering prayers and condolences without work will not change anything,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia said there's been 250 mass shootings so far in 2019.
“We've had more shootings in America than we've had days this year,” Garcia said.
Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is now calling for Senate leaders to pass legislation supporting universal background checks.
“I'd be prepared to go back for a special session to pass HR-8 and to ask leader McConnell to stop blocking HR-8 and introduce an assault weapons ban,” Lee said.
Flo Rice, a Santa Fe High School substitute teacher who was shot last year, spoke of the triggering effects of hearing about other shooting massacres.
“It's like a wound that keeps being opened up. You can feel for those that are going through it. You know the desperation, the heart ache,” Flo said.
Flo and her husband Scot have spent the last year lobbying for legislative change.
“I've reached out to every politician that I know and we’re trying to put something together. Everyone that has all the credible information on the leakage of intent, the Columbine effect, and everything that leads up to these. There's somebody planning the next one right now,” Rice said.
“There's nowhere safe. You're not safe in a house of worship, you're not safe in a school,” Flo said.
Others are still searching.
Javier Madrid is looking for his ex-wife Deborah who he has not heard from since the tragedy.
"Hopefully shes alive and all is well. Maybe she's somewhere and I just need her to contact me," he said.
Mayor Turner said City Hall, the Partnership Tower downtown and the Montrose bridges will be illuminated in orange Sunday. Turner said orange signifies the color to end gun violence.