In an outpouring of solidarity, El Paso residents line up to donate blood for shooting victims

Stunned and saddened residents of El Paso stood for hours in temperatures as high as 96 degrees F (36 C) to donate blood for the victims of a Walmart shooting that left at least 20 people dead.

Here at the United Blood Services donation center, medical staff work briskly to screen donors and collect blood after police called for donations.

The crime, in El Paso which was ranked 6th Top Safest Metro Cities in the U.S. by the Safewise security company, shocked residents who are quick to point out that the suspected gunman traveled from across the state to target their community.

“Everybody is, it’s like a family here and it’s a safe community. And I was so surprised to see that yesterday. Everybody’s in shock. You don’t think it’s going to happen until it does happen. And unfortunately, it was somebody that that came from out of town to do this, this heinous activity,” said 50-year-old Rod Rodriguez as he donated blood.

Authorities said they believe the gunman may have targeted Hispanics, a factor that strikes at the heart of local identity.

El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, together with the neighboring city of Las Cruces, New Mexico, form a metropolitan border area of some 2.5 million residents constituting the largest bilingual, bi-national population in North America.

Twenty-seven year old El Paso resident Katherine Marquez said she is Hispanic and is deeply saddened by the crime.

“We’re the most loving people. And so someone with a racist heart just came and just really decided to act on anger and evil. It’s sad,” she said. “We don’t hurt anyone. We’re just trying to live our lives like everyone else but, so it’s really sad that someone acted out of violence just because they don’t know us.”

Dr. Helena Ramirez, a social worker whose grandfather was an undocumented migrant, called for gun control measures.

“When my grandfather would go to work in the fields, we didn’t know if he would come home, if immigration would pick him up. Now my 5-and-a-half year old goes to school and I don’t know if he will come home because of gun violence,” she said, as she stood on line wearing a ‘Love is Stronger than Hate’ t-shirt.

According to James Dugger, the south central division president for Vitalant, the company that runs the blood donation center, the El Paso blood center collected 375 units on Saturday (August 3) and expects to exceed that on Sunday (August 4). They have shipped 370 to 400 units to local hospitals in the last 24 hours.

(Produced: Sandra Stojanovic, Jane Ross)

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