After Mr. Basco’s invitation hit the press and calls began to flow into Perches Funeral Home, they quickly realized the original plan for the Friday night service was no longer viable and it was moved to a larger sanctuary that could seat 350 and hold another 150 people standing. The visitation was scheduled for 6 to 10 p.m. I arrived at 4:30 and found a seat in the already half-full room. Well before 6 p.m., the room was already full. They announced that there were hundreds of people in line outside in the heat and they wanted to allow them to process in and greet the family. She asked for our patience. Margie did have family who had traveled in from out of state; Tony was the only one on his side of the family. Together they stood in front of the casket and for the better part of three hours hugged, talked to, and cried with each and every person who came up. I was seated next to a retired El Paso policeman and we also talked for those three hours. By my count, in addition to those of us in the room watching, there were at least another thousand people who processed in. The service itself started at about eight and ended close to nine. When I walked out to call an Uber to get me back to the airport hotel, there were hundreds more in line, quiet, in the dark, with candles and flowers. It felt like the entire city of El Paso had decided they could not let this man bury his wife by himself. And so they decided to honor him, honor his wife, honor the other victims, honor their city, and make a statement that El Paso cared, that their community would not be ripped apart based on the color of people’s skin or the language they spoke. Tony and Margie Basco were white. Ninety percent of the people who showed up were not. These days, I am both frightened for and embarrassed by my country and its leaders. This night, I couldn’t have been more proud of its citizens.
It’s my intention to use my final year at Oglethorpe to speak out and show up. We are at a tipping point in our country. Two years ago at Oglethorpe’s Commencement I read the inscription on the Statue of Liberty to our graduates, not ever imagining the White House would prefer to amend it by adding white and European to its clarion call. That is not the America I know and love. For me, El Paso is that America and I was blessed to see it and feel it in person.