Grief of massacres hits home for survivors of Parkland shooting

Joaquin Oliver's parents coincidentally spend his 19th birthday in El Paso

PARKLAND, Fla. – Had it not been for the 2018 Valentines Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Joaquin Oliver would be celebrating his 19th birthday on Sunday. Instead, his father is painting a mural in his honor at the city where 20 people were killed at a mall in Texas and on the day 9 others were killed outside of a bar in Ohio. 

As fate would have it, Joaquin's parents, Manuel and Patricia Oliver, were in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on Saturday when another deranged young man got a hold of a rifle to kill unarmed civilians. The grieving parents were set to paint at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas, where the community was in mourning. 

"This is the second time that I am in a situation where there is a mass shooting close to me," Manuel Oliver said about the dreadful coincidence. 


During 13 hours, 29 people died in two mass shootings in the United States and Manuel and Patricia Oliver were in shock. They never imagined that tragedy would strike on the weekend they were planning on spending honoring their son's memory. They ended up doing so by being there for another community in pain. 

Patricia Oliver talked to reporters in El Paso in both English and Spanish. She said that from her experience, after losing her son in the Parkland shooting, healing takes time because "this pain is not going away." 


For a moment, Patricial Oliver was the voice of experience among the relatives of countless of victims of gun violence. 

In the last week, there were also mass shootings at a festival in Northern California, a Walmart in Mississippi and early Sunday morning at a popular entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio. All of the carnage happened while the student activists from Parkland were getting ready to go back to school.

March for Our Lives activists tweeted Sunday about the weekend shootings in Chicago that left 33 wounded and three people killed saying many communities are not susprised by the "perpetual acts of gun violence." 

Miami-Dade County had its share of recent shootings -- leaving four people dead and four injured. A black transgender woman and a 21-year-old woman died in southern Miami-Dade and a Jewish man and 16-year-old boy were injured in northern Miami-Dade. 

During This Week In South Florida on Sunday, Miami-Dade State Attorney Fernandez Rundle said that universal background checks should be implemented because "we don't know enough about the people to whom we are giving weapons to." 



Miami-Dade Public Defender Carlos J. Martinez said during TWISF that President Donald Trump needs to "stop inciting" hatred. The man accused of fatally shooting 20 people in El Paso published a screed to an online message board saying the massacre was in response to an "invasion" of Hispanics. 

MSD survivors turned activists Alfonso Calderon, Jaclyn Corin, David Hogg, Ryan Deitsch, Alex Wind, Cameron Kasky and other students encouraged their followers on Twitter to get politically involved. 

"Remember how you are feeling today come November 2020," Corin wrote. "Do your research on where your State/U.S. Representatives, State/U.S. Senators (if up for re-election) stand on the gun issue. If you don't like it, CHANGE IT."


Hogg urged lawmakers to act and demanded an emergency session. 

"The framers did not intend for the Senate to be a graveyard especially in moments like this when our nation is under attack," Hogg wrote. 

Wind urged candidates to the Democratic nomination for the presidential election to attend a forum that two gun control organizations announced Thursday, before the last two massacres, to be held in Las Vegas Oct. 2.

"Trump, McConnell, & Pelosi must sit down & actually act against the gun violence epidemic facing America," Deitsch wrote. "Too many people are killed in an instant for any more blood to spill. It’s your turn to serve us."

Kasky started tweeting on Friday. He urged voters to "vote for a president who will do something about this. The war at home needs to end." On Saturday morning, he thought about the reaction to the Christchurch mosque shootings in March. 

"New Zealand fixed it in hours," Kasky wrote. "We would be an international joke, but jokes are supposed to be funny. And people are getting slaughtered."



Sofie Whitney wrote she was heartbroken. 

"Again and again, communities all over the country have to grieve unthinkable losses," Whitney wrote. "I'm sorry."

Delaney Tarr, an MSD activist, tweeted on Sunday: "I want to scream and I want to cry but nothing comes out. I want to tweet the perfect words but none will come. I want to change the world but I'm just not fast enough. God, [expletive]. We live in a hellscape."

Calderon shared information on Twitter about the March For Our Lives' #MarchOnNRA event Sunday.


Emma Gonzalez, an MSD activist, shared a link to a GoFundMe account to benefit Change The Ref, the organization Joaquin's parents founded to "raise awareness through strategic interventions that will reduce the influence of the NRA." She did so in honor of Joaquin's 19th birthday. 

Joaquin's parents have been lobbying for more strict gun laws in the United States. He said before the shooting his son cared deeply about anti-gun laws and about the crisis in Venezuela.  As Venezuelan-American migrants, they were in Juarez to meet with Venezuelan refugees who are struggling in the U.S. border with Mexico. 


Since his son died, Oliver learned how to use spray paint and stencils. He has created dozens of murals, including one in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood that was recently vandalized and restored. He spent his Sunday afternoon working with black paint outside of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas.


Reporter's notes on shootings in Dade : A woman was fatally shot July 26 in Homestead, and a man was shot July 28 outside of a synagogue near North Miami Beach. On Wednesday, a teenager was shot in Miami Gardens -- a few days after a man was killed nearby -- and a transgender woman was killed in the Goulds . There were a few shootings on Friday: a man was shot at a bar in North Miami Beach and another was killed outside a home in West Little River. A man was injured in West Perrine Saturday .


Remembering Joaquin 

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Thank you so much to the Oliver Family, Hands On Broward, Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, Bethune students and staff and everyone else that heard the call to honor. Phase One if the Joaquin Oliver Project was completed only a few short days before #oneyearlater . This project started with a surprise phone call after drawing a long series of design proposals. A few weeks later I gave a tour of Bethune to two brightly faced and deeply invested women in @ghersiandrea and @samantha_novick who I was told felt so comfortable on the campus and knew this was the right place to be. Then I had the honor of meeting Manuel Oliver who shared his ideas and feelings with me so that we can make the greatest personal impact and meaning. After that, it all came to fruition. I would also like to note that there was an incredible vigil held on that sacred day and @changetheref made an extremely impactful mural in New York City for all to see and hear and remember. Together we honored Joaquin Oliver. A bright young flame who has led many through the darkness and will continue being a light to guide all those who need not be left alone, nor ignored, nor silenced. His flare flickers eternal. His leadership never ending. His presence ever felt. And his inspiration to act, never ceasing. I am so thankful to all those that helped and took to action in honoring Joaquin so that we can remember and remind others that this can not happen again. Outdoor classroom, including murals, designed by William Elkin and Manuel Oliver @urbanolife . In honor of @slump_guac

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