Impact of Texas, Ohio shootings reverberates in Berkshires

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The mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend sent a wave of outrage and fear across the nation, including Berkshire County.

"I cried when I heard the news, and after the second shooting 13 hours later, it was like, `No, this can't be happening,' " Paul Allen, of North Adams, said Wednesday.

"I think we need to have politicians investigate more thoroughly what needs to be done. ... Our society in general is going in the wrong direction."

Thirty-one people were killed in a span of less than 24 hours when a shooter killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso and another shooter terrorized a mall in Dayton, killing nine.

Throughout Berkshire County, locals expressed a growing sense of danger where "every day it just seems like there's more shootings in the United States," said Sandy Lapier, of North Adams.

In a public comment Monday at the White House, President Donald Trump condemned the hatred that has fueled these shootings.

"In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy — these sinister ideologies must be defeated," he said.

Anywhere, any time

In the cooking section of the Walmart in North Adams, Joey Bourdon, of Adams, pushed his shopping cart, accompanied by his grandson.

The act of shopping at the chain at which the El Paso shootings took place wasn't lost on him.

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"I was a little uneasy because of where it happened [in Texas] — it could happen anywhere," he said. "But I'm not worried about it. It's an everyday occurrence that you just say to yourself, `Well, would it happen anywhere else?' But there's nothing you can really do about it if it does."

Rather than focusing on gun control, the problem lies in better parenting and strong moral values in a family, Bourdon said.

"If somebody wants to hurt somebody, they don't need a gun," Bourdon said. "You can do it any way. Knives, box cutters, or even fertilizer will blow up half a building. So, it doesn't matter — if that person wants to do harm, then they're going to find a way. It's sad, but it is."

Jim Tynan, of Adams, remembers making the trip to the Matamoros-Brownsville metropolitan area at the border of Texas and Mexico and shopping at the Walmart there.

"I'll never forget it," the Marine veteran recalled. "It could have easily been a thousand people in that store, and it was all full of Mexican people. Everyone who worked there spoke beautiful English and everyone wore their most-dressed-up clothes to go shopping because it's where you go to meet everybody."

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Tynan said that when heard about the tragedy in El Paso, he realized it was just a symptom of the president's rhetoric and the lack of gun control laws.

"Trump is what he is, and he doesn't even realize, I think, how bad he is," he said. "He'll do anything to get one vote. People love him and love him a lot."

While domestic terrorism has hit several venues across the country, Michelle Landry expressed the significance of a tragedy in the very chain where she stocks her pantry.

"I shop at Walmart," said Landry, of North Adams. "My kids come here when I'm not with them. So, yeah, this one's different. For somebody to just go in there and randomly start shooting people for no apparent reason, that's a special kind of sick."

'Do something'

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Local residents also expressed their dissatisfaction with the administration's efforts toward promoting public safety and reducing gun violence.

"Trump will go on posing and the National Rifle Association will continue to run Congress, which they do," Tynan said. "Other things are all excuses. What do you need? A hundred-round magazine to go practice target shooting?"

Some people blamed the president's rhetoric about immigration for sparking the violence.

"I don't think it helps, I'll put it that way," said Tari Roosa, of Lee.

"From what I'm reading, I believe Trump promotes a lot of hatred toward blacks, Latinos — anybody that's not white," Correen Daigle said while walking to a cafe in Pittsfield. "So, the more you press out hatred, what are you going to get in return? Hatred, right?"

In the wake of the manifesto of white nationalism left by the El Paso shooting suspect, immigrants and minorities, who represent a growing demographic in the Berkshires, are particularly cognizant of the dangers incited by the rise of hate speech and extreme ideologies.

"I have thought about emergency plans and ways that we would be able to alert each other if we were to suspect somebody wanted to cause harm in the building," said Michelle Lopez, director of the Berkshire Immigrant Center. "And just seeing everything in the news on Sunday just makes me feel now more rushed to put those plans into place."

For some, these tragedies only underscore the importance of the upcoming presidential election, providing an opportunity for action and change.

"I feel like it's our time, and if people aren't liking what they're seeing, then do something about it," said Leslie Massot, of Pittsfield. "You can protest as much as you want, but your real voice is being heard when you vote."

Said Bourdon: "It's time to stop blaming someone and do something. Don't become the problem. Become the solution."


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