New Braunfels residents met at the Main Plaza on Thursday to remember the victims of mass shootings in 2019.
An art installation by Sandeigh Kennedy was also on display next to the gazebo. She laid out 258 — up from 255 on Aug. 5 — pairs of shoes, all painted black.
Next to each pair, was the date, city and number injured or killed in a mass shooting.
The FBI defines a mass shooting of four or more people shot, not including the gunman. The U.S. Congress defines a mass shooting as three or more people, not counting the shooter.
However, there is no sure definition or criteria of what a mass shooting is. Thus, the count varies.
Wendy Davis, who is vying to face off against U.S. Representative Chip Roy in 2020, stood on the sidewalk, took some flowers from one of the plastic containers and laid them down next to one of the shoes.
That pair had the El Paso statistics by its side: 24 injured, 22 dead.
Davis said viewing the installation made her feel sadness and anger at political leaders’ unwillingness to solve the mass shooting problem.
“I think installations like this are such a profound way of helping us to see exactly what this human carnage has looked like,” she said. “It reminds me a bit of visiting the Holocaust Museum in D.C. where one of the most tragic and difficult parts of the museum exhibits was seeing the shoes, because when you see shoes, it humanizes the impact.”
Canyon High senior Ana Fuentes said she was 10 years old when Sandy Hook happened, and with every mass school shooting she feels scared.
“And we grew up in an era where this all can happen, and we still don't feel it,“ Fuentes said. “We've become so desensitized, this has become the normality that there shouldn't be, and it breaks my heart.”
According to Gun Violence Archive, there have been 254 mass shootings. Saturday is day 222 of the year.
“That we have had more mass shootings than days of the year is insane,” Fuentes said. “This should not be happening.”
The vigil began with live music while visitors spoke with one another and viewed the installation, created their own posters, or spoke with representatives at one of the three organizations present: Moms Demand Action, River Center Advocacy (the host), and voter registration.
At 8:30 p.m., there were 258 seconds of silence, each second symbolizing the loss in 2019.
Then Reverend Katy Walters led a prayer.
“God of love and light, we come before you tonight, the dark wake of acts of hatred that have taken the lives of your beloved children,” she said with shaken emotion in her voice. “Our hearts are hurting. Our heads are reeling. We think that there are no more tears left that we can't as a people possibly mourn this deeply this orphan, so we breathe and remember Jesus wept.”
Next, Molly Bursey, deputy regional chapter leader at-large region for Moms Demand Action, said she wanted everyone to turn grief into action.
Before the vigil Bursey said that while there's not one policy or law that they can enact to end all gun violence, there is so much they can do.
“The people, my neighbors in New Braunfels, understand that we can respect the Second Amendment and have sensible gun laws that not only keep all of us safer from mass shootings, but also from the daily gun violence including the gun suicides that account for two thirds of gun deaths in this country.”
Right before Democratic Women of Comal County President Lydia Rogers was to read U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett’s statement, a motorcycle accident occurred behind the Main Plaza on San Antonio Street.
The vigil was halted as some of the attendees headed over to the injured motorcyclists and stayed there until the New Braunfels Fire Department took the injured party to the hospital.
Afterward, the Vigil resumed with Doggett’s statement, and closed with a message by Tiffany Quiring, outreach and development director for RCA.
She spoke about the services RCA provides and mental health. She added that while there is much discussion about the mental health of people that commit crimes and hurt themselves and others, she wanted to make it clear that she was not there to discuss that.
“I am here to say I want to share the mission of our organization,” Quiring said. “The recent tragedies that occurred in El Paso and Dayton are heartbreaking and although we might feel angry or fearful resentful or a deeply sorrowful, there is healing and hope through taking care of our own mental health and encouraging others to do the same.”
The vigil closed with the band Cedars singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Afterward, Kennedy walked over to her installation.
“I should have requested a permit to leave it up,” she said. “I don’t want to take it down.”