Antonio Basco feared he would be alone to say goodbye to his wife, who was killed in the El Paso, Texas, shooting. Instead, thousands attended her vigil Friday night.
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The funeral for Margie Reckard, Basco’s wife of 22 years, will take place Saturday morning, and is expected to draw a similar crowd.
Basco welcomed strangers to attend the services because he didn’t have any family nearby.
The response to his invitation was so overwhelming that the funeral staff relocated the service to a bigger venue.
Reckard was an employee of the Walmart, where she and 21 others were killed and more than two dozen were injured when a gunman opened fire on Aug. 3.
Basco arrived at the prayer service Friday to a standing ovation from the hundreds in attendance who had lined up outside for hours and hugs from dozens of attendees.
“Thank you for allowing us to go through this process, for inviting us in. We thank you, Tony, for inviting us. We would have never known that you needed us to be friends, but look at all these friends you have,” Harrison Johnson, director of the Perches Funeral Homes, said during the service.
Jordan Ballard, who is from Los Angeles, flew to El Paso specifically to attend the memorial and funeral, despite being a total stranger. “His story moved me,” Ballard told El Paso ABC affiliate KVIA.
The service was originally scheduled to be held in a chapel that seats 250 people, but Perches had “more than 250 calls” from well-wishers all over the country so they were moved to La Paz Faith Memorial and Spiritual Center, a facility owned by Perches.
“The outpouring and amazing response from all over, not just our city, but the country is gonna be more than the capacity of the venue that we have,” Johnson told ABC News early Friday.
“I’m sure it’s gonna be thousands,” he added.
La Paz seats 500 people.
“I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and I’ve never seen this … for, I guess so to speak, a non-high profile person,” Johnson said. “I’ve never experienced such an outpouring of love and support and caring for what you would say is pretty much just an ordinary citizen, you know a loving person.”
Since Perches posted on Facebook that Basco “welcomes anyone to attend his wife’s service” because he had no nearby family, people from as far away as California have expressed interest in attending Reckard’s funeral, Johnson said.
He said Basco has been “overwhelmed” by the response. After speaking with Basco Friday morning, Johnson said he seemed to be “doing well.”
Basco could not immediately be reached.
Reckard’s two sons and her daughter arrived in El Paso Thursday to attend their mother’s funeral, Johnson added.
The FBI El Paso Division and its Victim Service Specialists will be in attendance at Reckard’s service Friday.
“As part of this community, we won’t let anyone so severely hurt by this tragedy go through this alone,” the department tweeted Thursday. “Mr. Basco, we stand with you.”
Our Victim Service Specalists and the FBI El Paso Division would be honored to attend Margie Reckard’s services this Friday night. As part of this community, we won’t let anyone so severely hurt by this tragedy go through this alone. Mr. Basco, we stand with you. #EPStrong pic.twitter.com/T70QtJB5ie
— FBI El Paso (@FBIElPaso) August 16, 2019