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2 Survivors Reunite A Year After Deadly El Paso Mass Shooting


Today marks a year since a mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart killed 23 people. Today, Angela Kocherga of member station KTEP brings us the story of one man and the woman who saved his life that day.

ANGELA KOCHERGA, BYLINE: After the car comes to a stop, Eduardo Castro is so eager to get out, he does not wait to get his walker from the trunk.

EDUARDO CASTRO: (Speaking Spanish).

KOCHERGA: Castro lives in Ciudad Juarez with his wife. Last August 3, he crossed the border from Mexico, as he often does, to shop at Walmart. Today, though, he's come to an El Paso park to meet with 38-year-old Adria Gonzalez and her mother.


KOCHERGA: Conversation flows easily in Spanish, Castro's preferred language. This is the first time he's seen the pair since last year's mass shooting. A hot summer breeze blows through the trees. They all wear masks and stand 6 feet apart, excited to see each other. Talk quickly turns to memories of that day and the moment when they heard the gunshots.

CASTRO: (Speaking Spanish).

ADRIA GONZALEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KOCHERGA: When it started, Adria Gonzalez says she and her mother were debating which kind of beef to buy. Gonzalez quickly rushed from the meat department to the front of the store, ushering dozens of shoppers to the back as the gunman advanced.

GONZALEZ: (Speaking Spanish) Here, let's go - over here, over here (speaking Spanish).

KOCHERGA: Castro was in the produce department. When he heard Gonzalez yell, he ran.

CASTRO: (Speaking Spanish).

KOCHERGA: Castro's 72. Many of the shoppers that Saturday morning were older and had gone to Walmart to cash their monthly Social Security checks. More than half of the 23 people killed were over 60. The oldest was a 90-year-old man.

CASTRO: (Speaking Spanish).

KOCHERGA: Castro says he saw the gunman kill an elderly couple. If he had not followed Adria Gonzalez, he believes he would have ended up dead, too.

CASTRO: (Speaking Spanish).

KOCHERGA: Castro calls Gonzalez an angel. For a moment, they forget COVID-19 precautions and embrace. Gonzalez's mother, 75-year-old Agueda Ponce Torres, quickly reminds them they must stand apart. She says she's not surprised her daughter rushed to the aid of people during the shooting.

AGUEDA PONCE TORRES: (Speaking Spanish).

KOCHERGA: Ponce Torres says a year later, she still feels a lot of pain and mourns the lives cut short. All three say they're in therapy and are often on edge in stores. Castro says he still has trouble eating and sleeping.

CASTRO: (Speaking Spanish).

KOCHERGA: He rarely talks about the attack but says this reunion was a chance to release pent-up emotions. Gonzalez agrees, switching to English to explain.

GONZALEZ: Talking to him, it was just taking everything out and how we have this similar emotional situations and how we feel about it after that morning of August the 3. It's that connection we have between us. It's like I know him in another life.

KOCHERGA: She says saving Castro was like helping an abuelo, a grandfather, in this tight-knit border community where many see each other as family.

GONZALEZ: We did it. We did it.

KOCHERGA: They survived and promise to stay in touch.


KOCHERGA: For NPR News, I'm Angela Kocherga in El Paso.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOLDMUND'S "TURNS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Angela Kocherga
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