Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
As the nation reeled from the news of the Sunday night mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas, Nev., Gallup-area high-schoolers, families and community members realized the tragedy had struck close to home.
Lisa Romero-Muniz, 48, a secretary at Hiroshi Miyamura High School, was killed – along with 58 others – in the attack during the final act of the Route 91 Harvest Festival. More than 500 others were injured, making it the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. in modern history.
By early Monday morning, the news started to spread around Gallup that one of their own had been at that concert and had died. Others across New Mexico began hearing from friends and family who had been at the show but escaped unharmed.
Relatives told the Journal on Monday that Romero-Muniz grew up in Gallup as one of many cousins in a sprawling family.
They said she raised her children there and loved her four grandchildren more than anything. She also leaves behind a husband.
“She was a beautiful soul who valued her family more than anything,” Romero-Muniz’s cousin Albert Gabaldon said via Facebook messenger. “Her kids and grandchildren were her world. I know it sounds a bit cliche, but she truly was an amazing woman, who touched the hearts of virtually everyone she knew.”
Gabaldon said his whole family is struggling to cope with their loss, as is the community Romero-Muniz called home.
Students and faculty reacted to the news with an outpouring of memories shared on Facebook and throughout the Gallup-McKinley County Public Schools where Romero-Muniz had worked since 2003.
Superintendent Mike Hyatt held a press conference Monday afternoon addressing the district’s loss and Miyamura High School hosted a candlelight vigil Monday night. Hyatt described Romero-Muniz, a discipline secretary, as an advocate for the students.
“When you go to that office, it’s a sensitive time, a time where it takes some encouragement and some friendship from our staff,” Hyatt said. “She was one of those people who provided that for her students. … She was there for them, she respected them and she tried to work with them as much as she could.”
Romero wasn’t the only New Mexican at the music festival.
Jenn Salazar, of Albuquerque, said she and her 14-year-old daughter had won tickets to the event from a radio station last spring and had been thrilled to get a chance to see Jason Aldean.
“He was the only one we wanted to see at this festival,” said Salazar in a phone interview Monday. She said she and her daughter Jasmine are big country music fans and “this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go to Vegas.”
The stay-at-home mom said her parents came to Las Vegas with her and Jasmine for the weekend. And on Sunday night, Salazar’s parents dropped them off at the concert.
Aldean was only a couple of songs into his set when they heard gunfire ring out.
“We heard the first shots go off and it sounded like a firework,” Salazar said. “Everyone around us thought it was fireworks or a sound effect from the concert. Then the automatic fire started.”
She said they started running for the exit – past discarded purses, shoes and cellphones – and then hit the ground as the sounds of bullets ricocheted around them. When there was a break in the gunfire, they were able to escape.
Once they were outside the grounds, Salazar said she begged two women for a ride to get away from the massacre.
“They told us to get in their truck with them,” Salazar said. “And there were two people in the bed already – a girl had been shot in the leg and a man – I couldn’t see exactly where he was shot.”
Salazar said the women took them to a home where she was able to call her parents, tell them they were OK, and get a ride back to their hotel. The family was supposed to fly out of Las Vegas on Monday evening but decided to rent a car and drive home instead.
Salazar said she and her daughter are both badly shaken and scared, but glad to be alive.
“It was like a nightmare,” she said. “You never think that something like that is going to happen to you. Then it happens and it’s just unreal.”
Romero-Muniz’s family, in New Mexico and Texas, echoed the sentiment and said they are struggling to understand why the shooting happened at all.
Paul Romero, a cousin in El Paso, said he felt for the many families grieving today.
“This isn’t just about Lisa, it’s about all those other people that died and hundreds that were injured,” Romero said. “I just can’t make heads or tails of it. I can’t tell why someone would kill so many people.”
Reaction to Vegas attack
“Our hearts go out to all those killed and injured as well as their families and loved ones. This was a heinous act on innocent people including at least one fellow New Mexican. We should join together to help our friends and neighbors in Nevada. I’ve discussed it with Governor Sandoval and offered whatever assistance is needed — be it law enforcement or any other help that may be necessary. As we learn more in the coming hours and days, let’s continue to stand ready to help and keep the people of Nevada in our prayers.”
— Gov. Susana Martinez
“On behalf of my brothers and sisters of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, we join our fellow citizens in sharing our deepest condolences and prayers to all affected by this abominable display of violence and evil.
“We also give thanks and pray for all first responders, official and unofficial, who went above and beyond their call of duty to protect and serve. For those who have died, may eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.”
— Archbishop John C. Wester of the archdiocese of Santa Fe
“My heart breaks for the victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting, their families and loved ones. As a country, we are long past the right time to address this national epidemic of domestic terrorism and senseless gun violence, and to consider real solutions to prevent future tragedies.”
— New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver
“I’m sickened by the mass shooting in Las Vegas. We are all keeping everyone impacted by this act of domestic terrorism and those working on the front lines in our thoughts. These incomprehensible acts of violence have become far too common, yet each one is no less tragic or heartbreaking. Every life lost to gun violence is a tragedy. Our country is weary from violence and grief and the American people deserve meaningful action from Congress. It’s long past due for a legislative response to keep guns out of the hands of those that would turn them against our communities.”
— U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich
“Jill and I join the entire nation in mourning the victims of this horrific attack, and we grieve for their families, friends, and loved ones. Across the country, the American people woke up to news of yet another unspeakable act of gun violence – this time, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. This despicable act is beyond comprehension, and our nation’s outrage and heartbreak are beyond words.
“As we grapple with yet another horrifying act of gun violence in America, we must channel our pain into real action to honor the memories of those we have lost. Congress has the power to do something about this epidemic. It’s long past time we did.”
— U.S. Sen. Tom Udall
“Like other recent acts of domestic terrorism, we are once again in shock and unable to explain the senseless loss of life. Nobody wants to politicize a personal tragedy. At the same time, I understand why most Americans are frustrated and upset by the lack of action in Congress to address gun violence. We all have a right to be safe in our communities, and that includes a family-friendly concert in Las Vegas. While we can’t prevent every tragedy, we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to prevent mass shootings.”
— U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham
“I was deeply saddened to learn that one of the fatalities in the Las Vegas, Nevada shooting was one of our own — an employee at Miyamura High School in Gallup. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and all the families of the victims of this tragic shooting.
While the details are still coming in, I grieve for the innocent victims shot in this horrific and senseless act of violence. This tragedy has touched us all — with lives disrupted and futures cut short.”
— U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján
“I just learned that Lisa Romero, a secretary at Miyamura High School, was killed in last night’s despicable attack on innocent concertgoers in Las Vegas. This tragedy has struck so many people & families in our communities and across the nation. Cynthia and I offer our condolences to those who lost a loved one or was affected by last night’s shooting. Prayers are needed for so many at this time.”
— U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce
“Our deepest sympathies and prayers go out to the victims and their families who lost their lives and were injured due to the tragic events in Las Vegas, Nevada.”
— U.S. Marshal Conrad Candelaria
“The violence in Las Vegas is heartbreaking. We are praying for all the victims and their loved ones. We grieve alongside them in the wake of this senseless and horrifying attack. Our gratitude lies with the first responders, police force, and public officials who are working diligently to provide safety and comfort to the victims in Las Vegas, Nevada.”
— Ryan Cangiolosi, Chairman of the Republican Party of New Mexico
“We are heartbroken for those who lost their lives and were injured due to the horrific violence in Nevada.”
— New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas
“Lisa Romero was loved and well-respected among her colleagues and fellow educators at Hiroshi Miyamura High School, and her loss will certainly be felt throughout the Gallup-McKinley School District. Her senseless death is a reminder our world is deeply interconnected, and tragedies can often have a wide effect, impacting many lives in the process. Lisa leaves behind her school community, her family, and all of Gallup is in mourning over this loss.
“The tragedy in Las Vegas has taken one of our own New Mexico educators, reminding us of how our lives can be changed in the blink of an eye. As educators, when a member of our community is lost – it touches an entire community. We will work closely with Gallup-McKinley Schools to ensure any supports necessary are provided for those grieving this senseless loss.”
— American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Stephanie Ly, American Federation of Teachers New Mexico Executive Vice President Kathy Chavez, and McKinley County Federation of United School Employees local leaders Patrice Carpenter and Brian Bernard.