On Aug. 1, as Gilroy residents gathered in the city’s downtown to honor those affected by July 28 mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, Hollister citizens simultaneously held their own vigil at the 400 block of San Benito Street.
The Hollister vigil was planned by members of the San Francisco 49ers fan club, Niner Nation. Hollister resident Oscar Ceja helped to lead the vigil and introduce speakers. Supervisors Peter Hernandez and Jaime De La Cruz spoke and Supervisor Jim Gillio, a former Gilroy police officer, also attended.
All of the speakers mentioned the shock felt in San Benito County that such a tragedy could happen so close to home. Three young people were killed in the shooting at the festival: Stephen Romero,6; Keyla Salazar, 13, and Trevor Irby, 25, and 13 were injured. The gunman took his own life.
“I couldn’t believe it was happening in our own backyard,” said De La Cruz.
Pastor Ruben Matuk said two prayers for the communities, one at the beginning of the 7pm vigil and one at the end. “It’s not about the name of a city tonight, it’s about a community,” said Matuk. “We’re living in a society where they’re trying to divide us, but tonight shows us that we’re not divided. We’re one community.”
Hernandez moved many in the crowd to tears with his impassioned speech about how neighboring communities come together during this time. Hollister is just 12 miles south of Gilroy, and the festival draws attendees from all over the area.
“Spread the message that Gilroy is strong and San Benito County likewise,” said Hernandez. “My biggest hope is that we don’t allow this to fester in our hearts. I would like to think we have the heart to overcome evil with good. I think this is an opportunity to come together.”