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Ceremonies held for shooting anniversary

El Paso Firme and Border Network for Human Rights march on Sunmount Drive toward the original Walmart memorial on Monday in El Paso. One year ago, a gunman opened fire at an El Paso Walmart, killing 23 people and injuring others. (Briana Sanchez/The El Paso Times)

EL PASO – Twenty-three pillars of light shot into a cloudy El Paso sky to commemorate the lives lost during a shooting that targeted Mexicans at a Walmart one year ago – a memorial visible from both sides of the US-Mexico border.

The white beams stood out against the orange glow of the border lights Sunday night as people lit paper lanterns and played music in a park in a ceremony marking a year since the attack. There was a service for the families of the victims, but the gathering was closed to the public.

Events to commemorate the shooting in El Paso, and another hours later that killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio, have been reshaped by the coronavirus. The pandemic has added peril to the kind of gatherings that would have otherwise marked the grim anniversary, but did not stop the largely Hispanic city of 700,000 from showing unity.

On Monday, the Walmart where the shooting took place delayed opening until noon. Residents and store employees wearing masks laid flowers and lit candles at a monument. Mourners observed a moment of silence at 10:39 a.m. – the same time that the first call came to police about the shooting, according to the El Paso Times.

A group, some dressed as Aztec dancers and others wearing masks, then walked from that memorial to the site of an older one carrying 23 crosses. Fernando Garcia, whose group helped organize the march, told the paper it was a demonstration against racism, xenophobia and white supremacy. After sundown, a star of lights is set to flash once for each of the victims on the mountains that overlook the city.

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