EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Manuel Oliver knows all too well what pain families of Saturday’s Walmart shooting are feeling. Oliver’s son, Joaquin, was one of the 17 students who were killed February 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Manuel and his wife, Patricia Paduay, were already visiting the Borderland when news of Saturday’s shooting reached them in Juarez where they were visiting with migrants who were returned to Mexico under the ‘Remain in Mexico’ protocols.
“I was here for another reason. I was here to celebrate what would have been Joaquin’s birthday, August 4,” Manuel said. “We were going to do a nice mural for him to commemorate his passion to help the whole immigration process and now we’re here.”
Manuel says his family’s mission has changed. He says they will remain in El Paso to help family members of Saturday’s shooting as they work through the process of losing their loved ones.
“El Paso should not take this as something that is normal. This cannot be common tradition,” Manuel said.
He went on to say in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, the media descended upon the community where crosses and teddy bears and vigils were held. Within ten days, he said they felt forgotten.
“Don’t let this happen. You cannot let them use a city and then just forget about the whole thing,” Manuel said. “This will never be the same city again, I can tell you that.”
“This will never be the same city again, I can tell you that.”– MANUEL OLIVER; FATHER OF JOAQUIN OLIVER, PARKLAND SHOOTING VICTIM.
When Manuel was asked what advice he would give those who are dealing with a heartbreaking loss, he says it’s important to remember your role in their lives first.
“The ones who are dealing with this have to keep on being parents if you lost your son or your daughter, which is not the only case. Some people lost their husbands and wives,” Manuel said. “A father will be a father forever. If you lost a son or a daughter, keep on being that parent that he or she needs. That’s why we need to get out there and raise our voices because they cannot speak out, but we can.”
Manuel says it’s never too early to talk about guns or gun violence. His family created the non-profit Change the Ref in the wake of his son’s death. He is continuing on his mission to paint a mural in honor of his son and in honor of El Paso at the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center this weekend.