Hundreds of residents from across the Permian Basin came together as the sun began to set Sunday, to pray and honor the victims of this weekend’s mass shooting that left eight people dead — including the gunman — and more than 20 others injured.
With tears in their eyes, mourners held bibles, hugged loved ones, waved flags and prayed together for nearly an hour. White T-shirts with the words #PermianBasinStrong were handed out — on them, an outline of the state with a heart marking Odessa.
Chalk was passed out and attendees were encouraged to write messages on the sidewalk. “Let all things be done through love” read one note.
Local school bus driver Olga Jacobo said after the shooting, she felt hesitant about leaving her house. But she worked up the courage when she heard about the vigil.
“We’re coming out together to support, come together as a community,” Jacobo said.
She echoed a sentiment shared by many residents.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen in El Paso and it did,” Jacobo said, referring to the Aug. 3 shooting at a Walmart nearly 300 miles west of the Permian Basin. “But I guess this can happen anywhere.”
When the shooting happened, Marco Olivas was at home, but he could hear the ambulances through his walls. He received frantic calls from family members and called friends who he knew were working that day.
“We’re still scared, we’re terrified. But we can’t let that get to us, so we came out tonight to show that fear will not get the best of us,” he said..
Sunday’s vigil, held on the campus of the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, began with a standing ovation for law enforcement and medical providers.
“Our first responders did an absolutely amazing job,” Odessa Mayor David Turner told the crowd. “You’re our heroes and we could not be more proud of you.”
Seven people were killed in Saturday’s mass shooting. The youngest was a 15-year-old girl, who had just started the new school year at Odessa High School.
Among the 22 injured are three law enforcement officers — one with the Odessa Police Department, another with Midland PD, and an officer with the Department of Public Safety. A 17-month-old girl who was also injured will undergo surgery to repair her lip, teeth and tongue.
The community is still reeling from the shock of the shooting, but Odessa’s mayor assured all in attendance at the vigil that the shooting “will not break us.”
“At that time we saw the very worst of humanity, but we also saw some of the very best of humanity,” Turner said. “We saw first responders running toward the danger, we saw our citizens running to help someone they didn’t even know.”
Sunday’s vigil came together just one day after the now-deceased suspect terrorized drivers and pedestrians, as he fired his AR-style rifle at random outside of a moving vehicle.
Midland Mayor Jerry Morales urged attendees to move their focus away from the shooter.
“We are not going to talk about that person anymore,” he said. “We are going to talk about healing, we’re going to talk about love, we’re going to talk about coming together as one.”