We wanted to find a way to capture that reality.
Producers Rachel Quester, Alexandra Leigh Young and Lisa Tobin took charge on Sunday of making Monday’s show. Over the next few hours, a half dozen other producers jumped in to help. Together, we tried to tell the story of a horrible day that has become horribly familiar.
We started calling Times reporters who were either based in the area or had been dispatched there after the shooting. We reached out to national correspondent Simon Romero, who covers immigration. He explained to us how undeniable it seemed that the shooter was making a political statement — he had driven hundreds of miles to a city at the epicenter of the immigration debate, across a state where rapidly changing demographics pose a threat to longtime Republican dominance.
Then our colleague Jenny Medina sent us tape. It told an extraordinary story. She happened to have been covering Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic presidential candidate from El Paso, when the shooting occurred. She followed him back to El Paso, where he held an impromptu news conference with reporters. Jenny turned to a couple in the crowd, and what happened next took our breath away:
Jenny: Are you from El Paso?
Patricia Oliver: No. We are from Parkland. We lost our Joaquin in the Parkland shooting. And we were — and you know what? We were waiting for Joaquin’s — today’s birthday, his 19th birthday today. And I have to deal with this again. And we’re trying, you know — and I’m — I’m telling you this because that’s why we came here, really. The purpose to be here for Joaquin’s birthday is we want to do something very remarkable, very important. And we want to do something with kids because Joaquin was very — I don’t know, he was very sweet with the kids. And we decided to come here and visit all the detention centers when this happened.
This couple had lost their son in the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., and traveled to El Paso for his birthday, honoring him in part by visiting a migrant detention center nearby. By pure coincidence, they’d been in town when this weekend’s shooting occurred.
It took Jenny’s breath away, too. You can hear her in the tape, breaking out in tears as she realizes who she’s interviewing.
In that moment, the era of mass shootings had begun to converge in an awful way — the tragedies becoming so commonplace that victims of one are now present for another.