Thousands of strangers have helped farewell a woman killed in the El Paso shootings after her husband — who had few family members and was concerned he would be saying goodbye alone — issued an open invitation to her funeral.
- Margie Reckard, 63, was one of 22 killed in the El Paso Walmart shooting
- Hundreds attended the funeral after thousands attended a memorial service the night before
- Strangers from across the US arrived in El Paso after a local funeral home issued an open invitation
Hundreds of well-wishers gathered at an El Paso cemetery on Saturday to support Antonio Basco as he buried 63-year-old Margie Reckard, his companion of 22 years.
The funeral followed a memorial service on Friday night, where more than 3,000 people paid their respects to the woman they had never met.
Mr Basco made international news after he told reporters he had almost no family left and felt he was going to say goodbye to Ms Reckard alone.
Ms Reckard was among 22 people killed by a gunman who opened fire during a mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart earlier this month.
This week, Perches Funeral Home posted on Facebook a photo of a bereft Mr Basco kneeling by a candlelight memorial, welcoming anyone to attend Ms Reckard’s funeral.
The post soon drew thousands of comments and shares, leading to attendees waiting for more than two hours in 38 degrees Celsius temperatures to attend the service.
Californian Jordan Ballard bought a plane ticket to fly to Texas after reading of Mr Basco’s story.
“I arrived here this morning,” said Ms Ballard.
“His story moved me.”
The service was moved from the small funeral home to La Paz Faith Memorial and Spiritual Centre to accommodate the crowd.
Vocalists and musicians, including a mariachi band, volunteered to help as condolences and orders for flowers poured in.
Antonio Basco feared he would be alone saying goodbye to his long-time companion Margie Reckard. (AP: Russell Contreras)
Mr Basco arrived to people waiting in line shouting blessings in English and Spanish.
“I love y’all, man,” Mr Basco said, before breaking down.
As the line swelled, Mr Basco came back out to thank attendees personally for coming, as people crowded around to hug and touch him.
Mr Basco appeared overwhelmed that strangers were running toward him to show love and offer condolences.
“He felt like he was going to kind of just be by himself with this whole thing but it’s not so,” Perches Funeral Homes director Harrison Johnson said on Thursday.
In the days after the shooting, Mr Basco told El Paso television station KFOX that Ms Reckard’s kindness and selflessness was incomparable.
“When I met her she was an angel and she still is,” Mr Basco said.
Waiting in line for his chance to say goodbye to someone he never knew, 42-year-old Jason Medina, 42, of El Paso, said he had to come to pay his respects.
“I know her now,” Mr Medina said. “We’re all family, bro.”
Perches Funeral Home is among local funeral homes offering free services for the 22 people killed.