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Hundreds Mourn El Paso Shooting Victim

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Antonio Basco worried that few people would show up for his wife's funeral. Margie Reckard was one of 22 people killed in the mass shooting in El Paso when a gunman, who told police he was targeting Mexicans, opened fire in a Walmart. So Mr. Pasco decided to invite the public to attend his wife's memorial service last night. Mallory Falk from member station KERA was at that service and reports the response to his request has been overwhelming.

MALLORY FALK, BYLINE: Hundreds of people lined the streets outside La Paz Faith Center. Most of them didn't know Margie Reckard. And they don't know Antonio Basco. But they do know what it means to show up for one of their own.

RAQUEL HENDERSON: This is what we do.

FALK: Raquel Henderson stands near the front of the line.

HENDERSON: This is what El Paso strong is - is to be there for our fellow, you know, resident, our fellow man, our fellow El Pasoan.

FALK: Henderson arrived with a gift for Basco.

HENDERSON: The piece of woodwork - it's in the shape of Texas.

FALK: Reckard's name is carved into the wood along with a heart marking the spot where El Paso sits on the far west edge of the state. Two weeks after the shooting, Henderson is still reeling.

HENDERSON: It's like somebody came in and just violated, you know, my home.

FALK: But coming here for this service, it's a way to reclaim that home.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FALK: Inside, the chapel fills up fast. Basco worried he'd have to bury his wife of 22 years on his own. But when he enters her memorial service, hundreds of people rise from the pews to applaud and embrace him.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We love you.

ANTONIO BASCO: Never had so much love in my life.

FALK: His wife's casket is surrounded with flower arrangements sent in from all over the world.

SALVADOR PERCHES: We lost count after 500.

FALK: Salvador Perches owns the funeral home that's handling Reckard's burial for free. He says the memorial service was supposed to be held in a smaller venue. But once it became clear more than a thousand people were planning to show up, he found a larger space. This service is the last of the 22 memorials for victims of the shooting. And it's taken on special meaning.

PERCHES: Since he opened it to the public, I think it was a way of the community to mourn the whole situation.

FALK: A stream of community members passed through the chapel paying their respects then making room for the next round of visitors. At one point, they sing along to "Amor Eterno," a Mexican ballad that's frequently played at funerals. It's become an anthem of grief and resistance in El Paso since the shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing in Spanish).

FALK: Estrella Duran stays through the full service. She was close with Reckard.

ESTRELLA DURAN: All I can say is that she was a really nice person, a lovely person. She was incredible.

FALK: She says Reckard recently had surgery to treat her Parkinson's disease and was thrilled that it seemed to work. That's made it even harder to lose her. For NPR News, I'm Mallory Falk in El Paso. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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