I love you, El Paso

My dearest El Paso,

I wasn’t born one of you. I didn’t grow up in the shadow of the Franklin Mountains, making jokes about loving different tones of beige. I wasn’t formed by the desert heat or reared in the wake of monsoon rains. I don’t have a border accent or family that has chosen your community as home for generations. I haven’t known you for all that long, but I often feel as though I did.

I moved to El Paso on a whim in 2014 at 21 with the man who is now my husband. We traded the forests of the east coast for ocotillos and desert sage and the best Mexican food that money can buy (in my opinion, the best food anywhere that money can buy). We both became proud UTEP Miners, where I finished my B.A. and he got his PhD. We live in Austin now, but we often say that we hope we will move back and settle down in El Paso some day.

I was a troubled teenager and, when I moved to El Paso, I was an even more troubled young adult, wrestling with mental illness and successive failures. I took a chance on you, El Paso, but more importantly, you took a chance on me. In El Paso, I found the most incredible, strong, tight-knit community. I found friends who became family, teachers who became friends and mentors, bosses who put their faith in me, and a city who truly knew the meaning of the word “neighbor.” When faced with hardship, you always stepped up to lift one another up despite difference. You are always El Pasoan first. You are always human first. You are the beautiful example that the country needs.

You didn’t deserve this, El Paso. The man who targeted you could never understand the strength, friendship, and beauty to be found among the people he so obviously feared. And in the days afterward, as you have grieved and begun to dress the wound that will most certainly take years to heal, you have shown the world your fortitude, though I wish you never had to. You have given the country images of neighbors waiting hours in line to give blood, a willingness to give, to hold each other close in grief and resolve. In the face of horror, you are still El Paso.

Like you, I am filled with grief and rage. I feel helpless and cautiously hopeful. In the coming days, as we once more enter into the cycle of demands for legislative intervention in an obviously broken, violent system, I hope that, as a state, as a country, we will demand no less than leaders who echo our anger, who hold fast to the need for substantive action. More than anything, though, I hope that the country will turn to you. I hope they will call you their neighbors the same way that you would call them neighbors if they came to you. Our nation will never be great if we don’t take care of you.

I love you, El Paso.

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