Strangers flock to mourn El Paso victim
Thousands of strangers from all over the US descended on El Paso, Texas, to mourn a woman who was shot dead by a mass shooter last month after her husband invited the public to help him say goodbye to her.
Margie Reckard, 63, was among 22 people shot dead in the El Paso massacre.
Her husband, Antonio Basco, was worried no-one would show up for her farewell service because the couple had no relatives living in the area.
So he issued a public invitation for anyone who wanted to attend.
In the end, so many showed up, that 700 people at a time were waiting outside the funeral home despite the 100-degree (40C) heat in the Texas city.
"I love y'all, man," Basco said when he walked outside to greet the mourners.
Attendees included visitors who flew in from San Francisco and Los Angeles for a service for a woman who they'd never met.
"I arrived here this morning," Jordan Ballard, a 38-year-old who flew in from California said. "His story moved me," she added, referring to Basco's public invite.
Strangers from as far away as Japan and New Zealand sent flowers, which lined the outside of the church and the front of the alter.
CNN reports that Reckard's son, Dean, said he didn't spend as much time with his mother as he wanted. He told attendees he didn't remember much of his childhood because it was rough and that his mother lived a "hardknock life."
"Through everything she dealt with in her life, she always had a smile on her face," he said.
Unlike the man who killed his mother, Reckard said she was very accepting and open of all people. He said she looked at his three biracial children with nothing but "pure love."
"My mother loved everyone regardless of colour, religion, politics or whatever," he said.
Basco really changed his mother's life, though, Reckard said. He described her as being extremely happy with him.
"Tony, you've been unbelievable for my mother," Reckard said.
One local florist said her business delivered more than 50 arrangements, with orders coming in from New York and Michigan. One of those arrangements came from the family of a victim of the Sandy Hook shooting.
"I've been in business over 30 years," Sandy Blanco, owner of Debbie's Bloomers, told CNN. "I've never seen any outpouring so beautiful, and an outpouring as large as this."
Since the massacre that took the love of his life, Basco has visited the makeshift memorial behind Walmart daily, coming and going at all hours. He leaves fresh flowers each day at the site of a white cross bearing his wife's name and removes any that are dying. Sometimes, he talks to her.
"I promised her fresh roses every day," Basco said.
Basco met Reckard at a bar 22 years ago. She had been smiling at him that night, and he eventually worked up the courage to approach her. A drink and friendly conversation soon turned into a dinner, according to CNN.
"Me and my wife had a bond, a magnificent bond," Basco said. "I never felt anything like that in my life."
The couple soon became inseparable, travelling around the country until they eventually settled in El Paso. They took care of each other as they grew older and as Reckard began battling Parkinson's disease.
When Hala Hijazi heard about the open invitation to the visitation, she broke down. Seeing how much Basco loved his wife and how lost he is without her touched her heart, she said.
Without a second thought, Hijazi cleared her calendar and booked a flight to El Paso from San Francisco.
"I didn't want him to suffer alone. I didn't want him to grieve alone," she said through tears.