His Wife Died In The El Paso Shooting And He Has No Other Family, So Hundreds Showed Up For Her Funeral
As one El Paso resident said, the funeral was also a chance for locals to show the world — and themselves — "there's still good in mankind, that there's still hope in the world."
EL PASO, Texas — On Saturday morning, moments before Antonio "Tony" Basco buried his late wife, Margie Reckard, he looked out into the crowd of mostly strangers standing with him at an El Paso cemetery.
Wearing a black suit with a red rose at his jacket pocket, Basco, 61, stood next to his wife's coffin and said he felt alone in the aftermath of the death of Reckard, one of the 22 people who were killed in an Aug. 3 mass shooting inside an El Paso Walmart.
Basco had been worried not many people would turn up to remember his wife. The couple, who met 22 years ago in Omaha, Nebraska, led a mostly solitary life in the Texas border city. He has no other family, either.
But as he looked out into the group on Saturday, Basco had a realization. "I'm not alone," he said. "I thought I wanted to be alone, but I don't want to be."
On Friday night, hundreds of people who had been moved by Basco's open invitation to attend his wife's services showed at the La Paz Faith Center for the chance to offer their condolences. The line of mourners wrapped around the nearby streets. So many thousands of flowers had been delivered to the funeral home that their fragrance carried outside.
Those who turned up on Friday and Saturday to support Basco wanted to let him know he wasn't alone in his grief and that he did indeed have a family in El Paso.
But El Pasoans also came out for themselves, to heal after an event that shook their sense of safety, to show their kids that good outweighs evil, to do something powerful after a shooting that made them feel powerless.
Karly Porras, 25, who waited in line in near 100-degree heat, was among those who donated blood right after the Aug. 3 shooting.
"You can only donate so much blood, buy so many T-shirts, put so many stickers on your car. I wanted to do more," Porras told BuzzFeed News. "The emotional support is just as important as the other stuff, even though nothing can change what happened."
Wendy Rios, 38, of El Paso arrived at the prayer service at around 7:30 p.m. local time. She and her three daughters made up the tail end of a line that would continue to grow.
Rios said she never would've imagined that a mass shooting would hit so close to home. She also worried about the impact it would have on her children. "I wanted to show my daughters that there are more good people than bad people out in the world," Rios told BuzzFeed News.
Reckard's funeral was the last of the 22 victims, said Salvador Perches, owner of Perches Funeral Home, who said he had spoken with other local directors. None of the others were open to the public and some took place quietly as families opted to grieve privately.
"We all grieve and heal in different ways," El Paso resident Julieta Aduto told BuzzFeed News. "People have been standing here for hours. It just shows there's still good in mankind, that there's still hope in the world."
Throughout the evening volunteers handed out hundreds of donated water bottles, snacks, and meals to those waiting in line. Many people wore "El Paso Strong" T-shirts. They clutched flowers, canvas paintings, and wood carvings they hoped to give Basco.
When the grieving widower arrived at the funeral home on Friday night, instead of allowing himself to be ushered inside, he walked down the sidewalk to greet and hug the people in line who hadn't been able to get a seat. Those who couldn't get close to him shouted their support.
"You're not alone," they cried.
"We're your family now."
"God bless you."
Shekelia Rambus, 46, moved to El Paso in 2012 and told BuzzFeed News that even before the shooting the city had received a bad reputation from some politicians, including the president, as being a dangerous place to live.
"It was important for me that the last thing people heard about El Paso not be about a shooting that took 22 lives," Rambus told BuzzFeed News. "Let it be that the community showed up for someone who needed us to stand with him."
Norma Zavala, 57, said she felt compelled to show up because she couldn't bear the thought of Basco being alone. She comes from a big family where even the smallest event draws in a large number of relatives and friends.
Eyeing the crowd of people in front of her, Zavala didn't expect to even see or be able to offer her condolences to Basco in person, but for her that wasn't the point. She wanted one of El Paso's own to know he had a whole city behind him.
"It helps us deal with it too," Zavala told BuzzFeed News. "We feel sad even though nobody close to our family was hurt. It's still shocking and it hurts."
There's no precedent for this in El Paso, Joseph Nunez, 50, said of the shooting.
"That's probably why we can't help but internalize something like this," Nunez told BuzzFeed News. "It weighs heavy on the community and I think that's why the response has been so overwhelming. It's an El Paso thing."
At the more intimate gathering at the cemetery on Saturday, Basco remembered Reckard as the woman who made him take a bug he found in the restroom outside instead of killing it. The woman who overlooked his flaws and showed him love. The woman who straightened him out.
He said everyone who showed up to honor a woman they didn't know was amazing.
"So many people put their arms around me, grieved with me, cried with me, it touched my heart," Basco said. "I love you and I'm proud and I'm honored to have you all here as my family."