'It's an open wound': Sante Fe shooting survivor honors victims of Dayton and El Paso shootings at joint vigil

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Dozens of people gathered Sunday evening at a church near the Heights to honor the victims of this weekend's mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio.

Inside the St. Marks United Methodist Church, hearts were heavy.

"May we remember the 30 lives that have been lost," said a March for Our Lives representative.

In the crowd of people, there was a familiar face: Santa Fe mass shooting survivor Flo Rice.

"It's an open wound I feel for the people and it breaks my heart," she said.

She says she's thankful to be alive and attended the vigil to show her support, but she said it's time for the gun violence to end.

"It's being treated like each incident is a natural disaster, and that's not what it is," explained Rice. "It's a horrific massacre that has become an epidemic across our country."

The two mass shootings occurred hours apart.

Twenty people were killed and dozens more injured when a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso during the busy back-to-school shopping season.

Meanwhile, in Dayton, Ohio, police say a 24-year-old shooter opened fire in a popular entertainment district, killing his adult sister and eight others.

Damion and Marie Parra attended Sunday night's vigil and say El Paso is their beloved hometown. When they heard of the shooting, they frantically called their loved ones back home.

"I have cousins that work at the mall and that day they weren't working, so luckily," said Damion.

They feel blessed their family is okay, but they say it doesn't take away the pain they feel for everyone else.

"You hear of these stories and tragedies, but yesterday, really hit home," said Marie.

Meanwhile, candles were lit and community leaders and activists spoke about the unfortunate acts of violence and discussed taking action when it comes to assault rifles.

"We call it by what it is, which is an act of terrorism, which is a hate crime," said Cesar Espinosa with FIEL, an organization that advocates for immigrant families.

Follow Mayra Moreno on Facebook and Twitter.
Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.