Odessa Residents Try To Understand How A Shooting Could Happen In A 'Utopia In The Desert'
A line of white crosses dotted an empty lot on an otherwise busy road in south Odessa. The memorial went up several days after a shooting rampage killed seven people and wounded about 25 more in Odessa.
Somber groups of visitors trickled in to pay their respects. They quietly left flowers and balloons and wrote words of encouragement on the crosses in permanent marker.
Eddie Pesquale, 61, moved slowly from cross to cross and lay his hands on each one.
He said he’s prayed for each victim and their families.
“This… it should not be. It should not be anywhere, not just here,” he said.
This was the fourth mass shooting in Texas in less than two years. In fact, these crosses were built by the same person who created similar memorials after the shootings in Sutherland Springs, Santa Fe and — just a month ago — in El Paso.
Pesquale is a grandfather, and he said divided opinions about guns and gun control stifles real conversations.
“I’m not going to say it’s a gun problem. I’m not going to say it’s a mentally ill problem. I’m going to say it’s a bunch of problems that are tied up into one,” he said.
Like many in the oil-rich Permian Basin, Pesquale moved to West Texas to work in the oilfields. The California native says that was 35 years ago, and he fell in love with the place.
“I could not believe you could find Utopia in the desert,” he said, adding that Odessa is a welcoming, family-oriented town.
He’ll never forget the first time a stranger waved at him in the store.
More than a quarter-million people call the region home — about 120,000 live in Odessa. Pesquale said the shootings left him searching for answers.
Lisset Tercero asked the same questions.
She came to see the crosses with her 2-year-old daughter and her mother. Tercero said she was on 42nd Street in Odessa when the gunman started shooting at a car dealership there.
“I just saw a girl giving CPR to somebody on the floor. I couldn’t tell if it was a guy or a girl,” she said. “But just seeing that, seeing blood. It was just something I had never seen in my life.”
Tercero said she’s always felt safe in Odessa — the type of place where everyone knows when the high school football team’s playing.
But now, she’s scared. On Monday, she was in a store and feared a man in jogging pants could be carrying a gun.
She left without buying anything. Whenever they’ve left the house lately, Tercero said, she’s found herself praying a Spanish prayer, asking for an army of angels to watch over her daughter.
“Now, I leave the day care. I go to the street. I leave my car. I get in my car. I leave my house — and I’m always saying, ‘Diosito pone un ejercito de angeles para que nos cuidan,’” she said. “I don’t know. It’s just really scary now.”
Chernique Pinckard, though, felt drawn from her house to the memorial. She and her husband recently moved to Odessa for work in the oil industry.
“It’s really sad that tragedy typically brings people close together,” she said. “But that’s the feel I have right now with home being attacked — is just wanting to band together with the community.”
But, for at least awhile, she said there will still be a heavy cloud over the city.
Mitch Borden of Marfa Public Radio contributed to this story.
Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@TPR.org and on Twitter at @cmpcamille.
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