EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — One year ago, the Anchondo family learned the tragic news that two of their own had died in the Cielo Vista Walmart shooting.
Andre and Jordan Anchondo both died while shielding their 2-month-old baby boy during the mass shooting at the Walmart next to Cielo Vista Mall. Andre’s brother Tito told KTSM even though nothing can bring him back, his life still goes on through Andre’s baby boy.
“Sometimes, it’s like this past year with COVID and everything, it’s been kind of like a trance. Like a dream that I’ve been walking through,” Tito Anchondo said.
It’s a dark dream many El Pasoans have been battling, but for Tito, the pain and anguish won’t end when the pandemic begins to subside.
“Sometimes I just want to pick up the phone and call him. I remember, ‘Damn, he’s not even here anymore,” Tito Anchondo said. “So I think the closer that we get, the more I feel like honestly crying and my heart starts hurting. What can we do but just make sure that he’s remembered, be strong, and move on.”
As the anniversary of the tragedy arrives, Tito Anchondo can’t help but reflect on a life taken and the void his brother’s death leaves behind. “Every day there’s always a joke about my brother and I think that’s the saddest thing is that nothing will ever bring him back but I’ll make sure that he’s remembered,” he said.
While the family continues to mourn, Tito Anchondo tells KTSM the legacy and impact of the littlest survivor.
“Baby Paul has become also a symbol of resiliency. For all we know, something worse could’ve happened to him. All he had was a broken finger that day and it’s a miracle that he’s alive right now. He’s such an amazing kid. He runs around, he’s a travieso. He’s a little trouble maker. He touches everything that he gets his hands on. I have a year-old daughter as well. So when I take him over, they’re just the best cousins of all time,” Tito said.
Tito Anchondo told KTSM before his wife got pregnant, he was hoping for a baby boy. Now, he says his role as a father includes Baby Paul, too.
“You know, it’s so strange that it seems that it’s meant to be that I didn’t have a boy because now I have to take care of my brother’s son. To me, he is like my son. So it’s just very strange how life works out,” Tito Anchondo said. “I have to be there for him as a father and that’s basically what I’m waiting for is for him to get a little older when he can talk and we can talk about everything that’s happened to him.”
Tito Anchondo said his brother still lives on through Baby Paul, “He looks exactly like my brother. There’s actually a picture where he is right next to a baby photo of my brother and they look exactly the same.”
While taking it day by day, Tito Anchondo said he’s been working on a documentary called “Triumph Unidos Y Fuerza,” which focuses on telling the stories of how families are moving on after the attack investigators believe was fueled by hate.
“What we’re trying to do is to start a movement to spread that uniqueness that El Paso has. And spread it to not only the country but the rest of the world. There’s no need to be any kind of racist way. There’s no need to be that way,” Tito Anchondo said.
The Anchondo family told KTSM that throughout the last year, they’ve been grateful for the overwhelming support from the community, “We thank them so much because they’ve really solidified a good future for baby Paul,” Tito Anchondo said.
He said moving forward has its obstacles, but he’s driven by the desire to set a good example for Baby Paul and his own daughter, Ruby.
“Life doesn’t stop. To us, getting depressed, just staying at home and feeling sorry doesn’t really suit us because we have to continue and what’s really important is Baby Paul and the kids. We can’t be that way for them. We have to be strong and show them to be strong as well,” Tito Anchondo said.
When asked if there was one thing you could say to your brother (Andre), what would that be, Tito Anchondo took a moment, and said “That I miss the heck out of him. There’s time where I wish I can just call him up and tell him ‘Hey I’m struggling, arguing with my dad, my wife or this customer’. It’s very tough. We had a lot of plans to work together. He was such a great uncle, even though he was only with Ruby for her first couple of months. Even then he treated Ruby so well. I just wish, I would tell him that everything’s going to be okay and that I got it.”
Tito Anchondo mentioned that when the pandemic hit, it put a halt to any production on his documentary. However, he hopes to start working with other families again as soon as it’s safe to do so.