Matt Taylor’s Saturday began like it might for countless other parents of school-aged children across the globe this time of year.
Taylor, who coached Fleming County’s boys basketball team in the 2016-17 season, now lives in Clint, Texas. He planned to go school shopping Saturday morning in El Paso, Texas, a drive of about 15 minutes from where Taylor, his wife, Christina, and their three kids live.
What happened in their community next was, unfortunately, also increasingly common. At least 22 people were killed and 24 more wounded by a gunman in a Walmart in El Paso.
It drove home for Taylor what has become an uncomfortable reality in the United States — that mass gun violence can happen anywhere at any time.
“It was just an opportunity for us to gather our wits and talk to our kids about, this is kind of the world that we’re living in," Taylor said. “‘These are some of the precautions you need to take,’ and trying to explain that to a 14-year-old and a 10-year-old and a 9-year-old is often difficult."
Taylor said the northeastern Kentucky equivalent of Clint might be Owingsville — meaning that it’s rural and that its residents typically run errands in nearby larger communities. For the Taylors, that meant a trip to El Paso to buy band supplies for their child.
"Everything you need as a citizen out here in Clint or the Horizon area ... there’s nothing accessible to them," Taylor said, “so we need to go to town to get things accomplished."
Taylor and his family were delayed in getting out of the house on Saturday morning, he said, by his wife’s grandparents. About that time, he received a text message from a family member who works for the police department advising him and his family to stay home.
News had broken of the shooting.
Taylor began working to account for his family and Clint High School’s basketball players. He is an assistant coach for the Lions and teaches science at the high school.
"The Lord blessed us that nobody was directly affected within our family," Taylor said. "It was a matter of time before we knew someone (who was). It’s just such a close-knit community. It’s a community where a lot of people know one another, especially if you’re in education."
Javier Rodriguez, 15, became that connection for Taylor. The sophomore soccer player at neighboring Horizon High School was killed in the shooting.
Taylor’s neighbor is a coach for the Scorpions, who represent what Taylor described as a "sister high school" to Clint.
"There were 1,000 Walmarts that could’ve been gone to next to the mall," Taylor said. "It’s not an uncommon thing to be at the mall, a couple hundred yards away, and say, ‘Hey, we forgot something; let’s go to Walmart. Let’s grab that on the way home.’ This poor young man and his family were greatly affected by this disaster."
As Taylor described it, the shooting took place near a hub for bus transportation between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, which are separated by the Rio Grande. It’s also a five-minute drive from Fort Bliss, a United States Army installation, and is close to Interstate 10. So foot traffic is high at that store, which Taylor’s wife frequented because it was near her work and which Taylor has set foot in himself.
"To strategically target that Walmart was really a sinister strategic approach to this disaster," he said. "You have to be here to appreciate how big the city actually is and how many Walmarts there actually are and how many malls there are. (This one) is centrally located.
"This guy knew something that we didn’t really consider as a community. We don’t see these kind of things happen here."
Taylor is a United States Army veteran who served a tour in Iraq, he said, and who was stationed at Fort Bliss.
For Taylor, that creates complex emotions regarding guns.
"As a combat vet, you want to kind of convince society that maybe there’s a use for (guns) in our society," he said. "It’s just, situations arise when people abuse their right. It’s happening a little bit too much.
"I personally feel like people should be trained and taught some precautions and some laws need to be in place, and I think I speak for much of the combat veteran population when I say that we need to really study who’s getting weapons, because it’s very easy to get one. Getting hired for a job (for the shooter) was probably more tedious than it is to get a weapon, and it shouldn’t be like that. It should be a process and it should be respected."
The gun used in the attack was legally obtained, CBS News reported.
The gunman is reportedly from Allen, Texas, nearly a 10-hour drive from El Paso. It’s believed he targeted El Paso as a statement against Hispanic immigration into the United States based on a political document police believe he wrote, CNN reported.
"There’s a lot of confusion because, just like (El Paso) mayor (Dee Margo) said, this is not an act committed by a local, this is an act committed by someone who drove a long way who had a very sinister plot, to take on something that’s not considered a problem by many," Taylor said. "Immigration is an issue nonetheless, but it’s being handled by the right people, and in this instance, the wrong person took matters in their own hands. So it’s frustrating the community.
"The kids are scared. They’re not used to these things. They’re used to seeing these things on television from a distance."
Taylor said the community has rallied.
"There’s a few lights in all of this where we’re pulling hope and promise, and I have to be one of those lights," he said. "As a coaching community and as an educators’ community, we touch lives every day, so I think it’s imperative that we come together and make sure that these kids know that they’re the future and they have the ability to change the world in a positive way."
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