Heroes of El Paso, TX, USA
Our creative nonfiction writing workshops always begin with a discussion about what it means to be a History Hero. We encourage students to look past the cult of celebrity or figures already documented in history books to find everyday people, selflessly overcoming their own limits. Today, that takes us to El Paso, TX, USA.
"I was scared, I'm not going to lie, but I wasn't thinking about my own safety. I was thinking about everybody else's safety,” said Gilbert Serna, 36-year-old father of 2 and 19-year employee of the Walmart store that was the target of a hate-inspired, racially motivated attack on 3 August 2019.
Serna learned of the presence of the gunman by two-way radio. He immediately signaled for nearby customers and co-workers to follow him to the back fire exit. He led a large group — over 100 people — out the building and into shipping containers so they wouldn’t be exposed out in the open. Then rather than join them in safety, he went back to the store to save still others.
They were caught up in the 249th—and deadliest—mass shooting in the US in 2019. It left 22 people dead and 24 injured.
On hearing 3 gunshots and seeing at least 5 bleeding people hit the floor, Adria Gonzalez, a 37-year-old assistant teacher, pulled her mother to safety in a storage area. Like most people there that day, they were shopping for school supplies (in their case, to donate to needy students, also heroic).
Adria ripped off her pink hat and waved it, shouting "Let's go. Vamos.” About 40 people responded. They sheltered together in stunned silence, waiting for the spray of gunshots and the panicked screams to stop.
Gonzalez said she did not think. She just acted. As did Jordan Anchondo, 24, who died shielding her 2-month-old son. And Andre Anchondo, 23, who died shielding her—his wife. The family was within range of the gunman when he opened fire.
We honor these heroes, who acted out of humanity — not to stroke their egos or gain a photo op. They epitomize what we mean by History Hero.