His wife—and only family—was killed in the El Paso shooting. Everyone's invited to her funeral.

Imagine having your only family member taken from you in an act of violence while shopping at Walmart.

When Margie Reckard was killed in the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, 61-year-old Antonio Basco was left with no living relatives. Basco and Reckard had been married for 22 years.

"Me and my wife had a bond, a magnificent bond," Basco told CNN. "I never felt anything like that in my life." He said they had "a wonderful life" together.

Basco has spent every day since the shooting visiting a makeshift memorial for his wife outside of the Walmart where Reckard was shot and killed. He prays for her and talks to her. He even slept there one night.


"I can't stay away from here," Basco told CNN. "All I know is that my wife never hurt someone."

It's a heartbreaking story with a heartwarming twist. Basco has invited the public to his wife's funeral, and the supportive responses from fellow El Paso residents, as well as the rest of the country, have been overwhelming.

Perches Funeral Home posted a Facebook invitation to Reckard's funeral, and in two days it's already been shared 14,000 times. In fact, the response has been so great that the location of the funeral had to be changed to a bigger venue.

The funeral home has a capacity of 250, but at least 1,000 people are expected to come.

"We're getting calls constantly, every two or three minutes," Harrison Johnson, the funeral director at Perches Funeral Homes, told NPR. "It really surprised us." Dozens of people have already ordered flowers for the funeral as well.

People have joined Basco at his wife's Walmart memorial to offer their support. A local journalist, Carlos Armendáriz, even set up a GoFundMe page for Basco after taking his photo at the memorial and getting a strong response from people. "My intention was that people can help him as much as they can," Armendáriz told CNN.

"If it wasn't for all of these people, I don't know how I would make it," Basco said.

El Paso was rocked to its core by the mass shooting, by far the worst act of violence the peaceful community has seen. The gunman, who had penned a white supremacist manifesto explaining his motive, drove ten hours to the border city specifically to kill Mexican immigrants. Basco's wife was not his intended target, but hatred has a habit of harming indiscriminately.

RELATED: Most domestic terrorism comes from white supremacists, FBI tells lawmakers

The support that Basco is receiving is wonderful, and the way El Paso has come together in the wake of such a tragedy highlights the humanity that resides there. There is beauty in the response to this tragedy.

But it's a tragedy that never should have happened in the first place. Basco shouldn't be planning this funeral. I shouldn't be writing this article. Because the greatest country with the greatest economy that espouses the greatest freedoms and the greatest political system in the world should not be a country where people fear being shot to death while grocery shopping.

Or sitting in a movie theater.

Or attending a concert.

Or walking down a high school hallway.

Or practicing subtraction in a first-grade classroom.

In no other developed nation do children regularly rehearse what to do if a gunman enters their school. In no other developed nation do school custodians and secretaries have to learn what various kinds of bullet wounds look like in a child's body. In no other developed nation do citizens walk into a public place and immediately plan for what they'll do if someone comes in and starts shooting. That thought is rightfully horrific to people on the outside looking in.

Of course, mass shootings are not the primary sources of our gun violence rates. But the fact is that guns kill as many Americans as car accidents (in fact, more in 2017). Twice as many children died from gun violence in America as police officers and soldiers combined from 2013 to 2017. Toddlers shoot and kill more Americans than foreign-born terrorists.

We. Have. A. Problem.

RELATED: Twice as many American children die from gun violence as police officers and soldiers combined

Rather than do what every other developed nation has done—enact nationwide gun legislation that requires some combination of background checks, waiting periods, safe storage, limits on ammunition, and mandatory basic safety and usage training—to try to prevent the carnage, we rehearse for it. We accept the underlying fear and the sacrifice of children as the price we pay for America's gun obsession. We accept that a toddler pulling a gun out of his mom's purse and shooting her in the grocery store is just another manifestation of freedom. We accept a man losing his only family member in a mass shooting as the price we pay for an unreasonable attachment to and interpretation of an amendment written when guns couldn't shoot 36 people in under 30 seconds.

I hope that thousands show up to Marie Reckard's funeral to bear witness to the senseless loss of her life. I hope Antonio Basco feels uplifted by this outpouring of support from the masses. I hope the country they and millions of others whose lives have been impacted by gun violence call home finally decides that we've sacrificed enough Americans at the altar of gun rights.


True

Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less