Odessa, TX (The B) – The month of August 2019 saw two devastating events that will be forever shared by two West Texas communities. Not because of the evil that was spewed on two tragic days, but for the strength the cities of El Paso and Odessa possess.
It had been barely a month for the El Paso Franklin football team, and not even a week for the Permian Panthers, as the two teams took the field at Ratliff Stadium in hopes of making sense of the horrendous events that had transpired.
As the Friday Night Lights (actually played on Thursday) shined down on the two high school teams and their supporters, emotions well exceeded the field of play. The meeting would be about much more than just football. In the wake of the tragedies, the two communities came together as one. Not as two cities or schools, but as football brethren. There was no bickering, complaining, or political comment. It was a gathering of people trying to make sense of a tragedy they had not experienced before. It was a time for unity.
Players, coaches, and cheerleaders united on the field before the game’s kickoff to show support for each other and demonstrate the strength of the two cities coming together during difficult times. Two grief-stricken communities that had been shaken were trying to continue on and let the proud Texas tradition of high school football be a part of the healing process. Many experts confess that it can help to attend events as you normally would, both by preserving some semblance of normalcy and to find comfort through shared grief. High school football games are as big as the state of Texas and often how communities come together on a good Friday night across the state.
By the game’s end, these teenagers had provided inspiration and a little light on what had otherwise left a community in a state of shock and disbelief. They displayed an example of perseverance and left that afternoon with a special bond. A message was delivered loud and clear: While bitterness and hate will divide; when Together As One, We Are Strong. A thought that holds true to this day.
The twist of fate began in El Paso on the morning of August 3. A deranged gunman walked into the Walmart Supercenter near Cielo Vista mall carrying what is believed to have been a WASR-10 rifle and opened fire, killing 22 people and injured another 24. After discharging his weapon in the store, the shooter drove to a nearby intersection and identified himself as the spineless culprit and surrendered to Texas Rangers.
The FBI investigated the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism. It was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States in 2019, the seventh deadliest since 1949, and the third deadliest in Texas.
West Texas would deal with another mass shooting just three weeks later, this time from a moving vehicle. The madness began at 3:17 p.m. on August 31. Seven people were killed and 25 were injured. During a procedural traffic stop on Interstate 20, a Texas state trooper was shot while the suspect was pulled over. He left that scene and the chaos began. The gunman continued into the city of Odessa, firing at random people. He eventually abandoned his vehicle and hijacked a USPS minivan and killed the driver. He ventured into a highly populated area of northeast Odessa, where he continued to spray rounds at innocent people on and off the roadway.
Odessa and Midland law enforcement officers were able to finally corner and terminate the evil in the parking lot of a movie theater. Authorities now believe he got the weapon from an individual in Lubbock. He failed a national criminal background check while attempting to legally purchase a firearm five years earlier for being deemed mentally unfit.
Both communities endured the unthinkable in less than a month’s time. Today marks one year since that horrible Saturday afternoon in Odessa.
Portions of this article and video courtesy MojoLand.net