When Cleveland High School from Rio Rancho, N.M., visited the Franklin football team last week for a game, the team brought a banner that said “El Paso Strong” with Franklin and Cleveland (both from El Paso, Texas) logos on the banner.
It was a way of showing solidarity with the El Paso community after the Aug. 3 massing shooting at the Walmart near the Cielo Vista mall left 22 people dead and 25 people injured.
With the city of Odessa reeling from its own tragedy, Franklin coach Daren Walker said his team is planning to do the same on Thursday night when the Cougars visit Ratliff Stadium to take on Permian (Odessa, Texas). This time, though, the banner will read “Odessa Strong”.
Last weekend on Aug. 31 in Odessa, seven people were killed and 25 injured in a Labor Day weekend mass shooting in the Permian Basin.
“What Cleveland did was a classy thing to do,” Walker said. “We wanted to do something similar to let Odessa know we are behind them and thinking of them.”
Thursday night’s game will be about more than who wins or loses, it will give the two teams and their communities a chance to grieve and bring them together.
“Our hearts go out to Odessa and Midland,” said Franklin senior defensive back Ethan Bustillos. “It’s sad to see this happen again. My thoughts are with the victims and the families and friends of those victims. It was tough when it happened here in El Paso and seeing so many people suffer is a tough thing to see.”
One of the seven killed in Odessa was an Odessa High student, which hit home for Bustillos.
“To see someone so young lose their life and not have the chance to live their full life or reach their potential is tough to see,” Bustillos added.
When El Paso was affected by the shooting on Aug. 3, people from around the country came together to support the city in multiple ways.
Now El Paso has the chance to do the same with Odessa. El Paso and Odessa often meet in sporting events throughout the school year and several times over the course of the high school sports calendar, teams from El Paso will play playoff games in the Permian Basin.
“We can be there for the people of Odessa and help them with what they are going through,” Franklin running back Pablo Gutierrez said. “It’s hard what we had to go through as a city and it’s hard what they are having to go through. Our game can give Odessa a chance to come together and get their minds off things for a couple of hours.”
On Sept. 19, Odessa High will visit El Paso for a matchup against Montwood.
UTEP offensive lineman Derron Gatewood is from Odessa and graduated from Permian High School in 2014. He heard about the mass shooting in Odessa on Saturday prior to the Miners home game against Houston Baptist.
“It hurts me to see what happened in Odessa and it hurts me to see families hurt by this tragedy,” Gatewood. “My heart goes out to Odessa and Odessa is in my thoughts.”
The shooting last Saturday also affected nearby Midland, which is about 20 miles from Odessa.
The Americas and Pebble Hills (both El Paso, Texas) football teams will visit Midland Christian and Midland High (both in Midland, Texas), respectively on Friday. On Sept. 13, Midland High visits Franklin and Montwood (El Paso, Texas) will be at Lee (Midland, Texas).
Spartans coach Mark Torres said the shootings in El Paso and Odessa have been addressed with his team.
“We talked to the kids about it Monday and it’s definitely a tough situation for both El Paso and the Odessa-Midland area,” Torres said. “The shootings have touched both areas a great deal.”