ST. LOUIS — Exactly 22 handmade crosses were placed in a circle Tuesday evening at Tower Grove Park as Mexican, American and Texas flags hung from the Chinese Pavilion. Nearby was a decorated poster board bearing 22 names that those present don't want to be forgotten.
They were the names of the 22 people shot and killed in an El Paso, Texas Wal-Mart on Aug. 3 by a white supremacist who targeted Hispanic people.
Chrystal Garcia, 37, of St. Louis, was born and raised in El Paso and said she is not an activist but wanted to hold a vigil to honor the victims.
"I felt really helpless," she said. "I'm not there in my home city. I was depressed and crying and wanted to do something, and this is what I chose to do."
Once Garcia had the idea, she quickly posted it on social media and reached out to several groups for support. Antonio Maldonado, 71, of Florissant, who heads the Hispanic Leaders Group of Greater St. Louis, said he was glad to endorse Garcia's vigil.
"I'm not Mexican, but I can feel the hurt because I am a human being," Maldonado said. "It is important to never forget. All of them were victims. They were average Americans living, working and shopping for school supplies. Then it became a nightmare."
Nearly 40 people attended the vigil, where the 22 names were read and words of encouragement and support were shared along with horchata.
The vigil was also a platform for people to speak against anti-immigrant rhetoric and conditions at immigrant detention centers.
"We have these 22 crosses here because of the political rhetoric that is happening against brown folks and immigrants across this country," said Elizabeth Vega, an activist in the St. Louis community.
Marlene Perez, 32, of Breckenridge Hills, and her children stood during the vigil as well. They held signs saying, "We are El Paso."
"They are not alone. We are everywhere. We're all human. I don't know why we have to separate. We just wanted to show our support," said Perez.
The names of those killed in El Paso:
Andre Pablo Anchondo, 23; Jordan Anchondo, 24; Arturo Benavidez, 60; Leonard Cipeda Campos, 51; Maria Flores, 77; Raul Flores, 77; Jorge Calvillo Garcia, 61; Adolfo Cerros Hernandez, 68; Alexander Gerhard Hoffman, 66; David Alvah Johnson, 63; Luis Alfonzo Juarez, 90; Maria Eugenia Legarrega Rothe, 58; Elsa Libera Marquez, 57; Gloria Irma Marquez, 61; Maribel Loya, 56; Ivan Hillierto Manzano, 46; Margie Reckard, 63; Sarah Esther Regaldo Moriel, 66; Javier Rodriguez, 15; Teresa Sanchez, 82; Angelina Silva-Ellisbee, 86; and Juan Velazquez, 77.