The community gathered Thursday for the “Shine a Light” Sunrise Service to honor those lost, injured and impacted by the Aug. 31, 2019, mass shooting.
Seven people were killed and 25 injured that day four years ago. The gunman, Seth Ator, who was traveling between Midland and Odessa, was shot and killed by multiple law enforcement agencies as they made a final stand in a field near Cinergy Theatre.
Members of the law enforcement community, first responders, healthcare workers, officials from UTPB, the City of Odessa, Ector County ISD and those impacted by that awful day, convened for Thursday’s event under the Mesa Deck at University of Texas Permian Basin.
A piece of the Bright Star Memorial created by artist Jim Sanborn was on display on the stage where community members and local officials spoke and prayed. It includes the names of those lost, the years they lived, and a quote about them from family and friends.
Chairs to the side of the stage were draped in yellow ribbon in remembrance of those who lost their lives.
UTPB Chief of Staff and Vice President of Communications and Marketing Tatum Hubbard served as emcee. She said each year the City Parks Department displays 32 yellow flags at Memorial Gardens Park for those lost or injured in this community on Aug. 31, 2019.
Odessa Arts Executive Director Randy Ham said while the site is being prepared it will be displayed at the UTPB library.
Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis said he had a chance to view the part of the memorial on display and said it was going to be amazing.
“We’re not going to leave here with dry eyes today,” Griffis said.
Hubbard said this is the fourth year UTPB has hosted the ceremony.
“We are so grateful for your support to continue this program … This really is aimed at reflecting back, and more importantly, looking forward and serving others on this day,” Hubbard said.
Rev. Dr. James J. Bolton, senior pastor at St. James Missionary Baptist Church, gave the prayer to start off and Rev. Donnie Williams from The Bridge gave the closing prayer. UTPB student Rachel Harper sang “You Raise Me Up.”
Kelby Davis with The Bridge was directly impacted Aug. 31, 2019, and spoke Thursday. She and her husband, Garret, along with Anderson and her twin brother Rhett, were heading to the grocery store that day when a bullet went through the rear driver’s side of the car and broke apart sending shrapnel into Anderson’s face and chest.
The family has since welcomed another child.
Four years later Anderson is doing well and is a thriving kindergartner, Davis told the Odessa American in an email.
“I’m able to look at my own family and I never take for granted how fortunate we are to be in a position where we are. … My family is such a physical reminder of how time has passed and how time changes us. … Although time passes us; it changes us; it grows us. In some ways time does heal us. It doesn’t replace what we went through. It doesn’t replace all that was lost,” Davis said.
She added that their lives look different than they did four years ago and in many ways the community looks different than it did then.
“But one thing never changes. The sun still rises in the morning. The light of this community, it shines so bright during our darkest day. It’s that light that has guided us over and over the last four years. This is why I believe the sunrise service is so important,” Davis said.
It offers a chance to change the narrative of 8/31 as each year passes.
“Although it can be impossible to see through the darkness when you’re in the moment of it, time teaches us that we must focus on the light,” Davis said. “There’s so much waiting for us in the light.”
She challenged people to go out into the community today and spread light in honor of the lives the victims lived and the loved ones they left behind.
“But I also want to encourage you to spread the light today in honor of all 8/31 brought out in our community,” Davis said.
She added that they talk about the shooting openly at home and her children know there was evil present that day, but they only seem to talk about the love and hope that those around them provided.
They call those that helped them that day their angels because that’s what they were.
“We talk about the love that they gave us; the support they provided; the light that they shined on us when we were fighting off the darkness. It is that light that has made such a lasting impression on our children,” Davis said.
Odessa Fire Rescue Chief Jason Cotton talked about his experiences that day.
Cotton described each location and each victim. He was the one that got Anderson and Kelby Davis loaded into an ambulance.
He said he didn’t recount that day for himself.
“I tell you all that because 50-plus other firefighter paramedics that day were doing the exact same thing,” Cotton said.
They called in extra people and off-duty personnel jumped in to help with no hesitation.
He added that this threat had never happened in this country, in that manner.
“Odessa Police Department, Ector County Sheriff’s Office, Midland Police Department, Midland County Sheriff’s Office, ECISD Police, DPS, UTPB, OC, Hospital District, all of them were doing their best to fix the problem,” Cotton said.
“I am proud to be part of that group and I’m honored to be part of that team over there,” he added.
Since then, he said, they have trained a lot.
“We’ve trained on probably no less than a dozen active shooter training incidents over the past four years. We’ve worked with ORMC. We’ve worked with Medical Center. We work with OPD. We work with ECISD and we do the best we can to prepare in case we have that threat again in this city. And again, we’re going to do the best we can, what we do every day, to fix the problem and help the people in need, to neutralize the threat,” Cotton said.
He added that OPD has put in place technology that will help them locate the threat if it ever happens again.
“We’ve got a new radio system coming where we have better communication between Odessa and Midland. Even going through that situation that day, I’m proud to call Odessa home. I’ve lived here for just shy of 50 years. On that day and during that moment in time, we bonded as a city. We were all there for each other,” Cotton said.
He urged attendees to keep those bonds going with random acts of kindness and remember those who were lost.
Quoting 1 Corinthians 13:13, Cotton said, “And now these three remain, faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love and you.”
Ham said the first words in the Book of Genesis are “Let there be light.”
More than 150 artists from across the country applied for the Bright Star commission.
“Jim Sanborn was the one whose proposal included light. He created the Bright Star Memorial as a way to honor the people that we have lost, the perseverance of the people that have survived and expanded it a little bit by being able to not just put names on a plaque. But each one of these names is followed by quotes from family and friends,” Ham said.
Christy Ten Eyck of Ten Eyck Landscape Architects said they were lucky enough to speak with people in the community about what they wanted the memorial to be. They wanted it to be a place of reflection and quiet where they could be integrated with nature.
“We selected a place on campus that was the most surrounded by nature and you will get out of your cars, go walk on a path, you’ll go over a bridge to really magnify the use of the ephemeral water that comes through campus. We know it’s not there all the time, but it does come through. You go over this bridge and up a path to this wonderful plaza. The seats will be made of the native stone from the earth of West Texas. You’ll be surrounded by desert willow trees and native plants. We just hope it’s a place where you can connect with nature and the universe and find solace in all that nature provides,” Ten Eyck said.
Rosie Granados, the twin sister of postal worker Mary Granados who was killed in the mass shooting, attended the service. She held a stuffed bear dressed like a postal worker that was custom made from the clothes her sister wore.
She said she had been to last year’s service and said this one was “very beautiful.”
Their mother, Rosa Marquez, through Rosie, wanted to thank everyone who has remembered Mary and continues to do so every year.
State Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, was in attendance with his wife, Shelby.
“I thought it was a wonderful, healing service. It was great to see so many of the family members of the ones we lost on 8/31/19. … This is an opportunity for us to uplift each other as a community. … This sunrise service is always a great way for us to commemorate the victims, celebrate the survivors and come together as a community,” Landgraf said.
He added that it’s great to see the Bright Star Memorial coming together.
“It seems like a very fitting tribute and it’s great to see a piece of it on display here today,” Landgraf said.
UTPB President Sandra Woodley said she thought Thursday’s service was lovely.
“I hope it was comforting to the families in the community. One of the things it highlighted was the closeness of our community and the resilience that we have in the face of tragedy. I really like that the focus is changing the narrative to the light and those random acts of kindness, so important in our community. A tragedy like this really highlights the need for us to do that every single day. I thought it was a lovely service and (I’m) really happy to be part of it.”