J.R. Romero said he worked more than two days straight at the Cielo Vista Walmart to "photograph and document the scene" after the Aug. 3 mass shooting. But that doesn't concern him.
"I don't want to consider my feelings," the deputy chief investigator for the El Paso County Medical Examiner said, "There's 22 people that lost their lives and to me that is more concerning when it comes to feelings." And those 22 people have family members that need answers to what happened, he said.
Romero was among the first responders honored at an El Paso luncheon Tuesday. El Paso Police and Fire personnel, other law enforcement officers and mental health counselors who responded to the Aug. 3 Walmart mass shooting were also recognized.
About 125 people, including community leaders and some of the first responders, were at the luncheon organized by the El Paso Community Foundation and sponsored by Albertsons.
Officials with the supermarket chain presented a check for $661,561, donated by supermarket customers in five states over several weeks, for the foundation's shooting victims' fund.
El Paso Fire Department Chief Mario D'Agostino said after the luncheon that the 110 firemen and emergency medical technicians who responded to Walmart on Aug. 3 seem to be handling the aftermath of the mass shooting well.
"Time will tell. When you look at past events (other mass shootings), there's an obvious timeline you can see. So, in three to six months you start seeing first responder effects. Some of those effects don't surface, or show until the third year," he said.
Firefighters and emergency medical technicians, or EMTs, from other cities where mass shootings occurred were brought in to talk to El Paso fire personnel and other first responders, he said. They also are being offered counseling as are other first responders, he said.
"That's what we're monitoring with the resiliency center," he said. "We will monitor the long term effect it has on our community, not just first responders," he said.
The center had operated in different locations immediately after the shooting. The permanent El Paso United Community Assistance Center is opening soon at 6312 Delta Drive in the Lower Valley.
More than 20 people also were injured when a gunman entered one of the busiest Walmarts in the nation and began shooting, first in the parking lot, and then in the store, where an estimated 3,000 people were shopping.
Several El Paso Police officers at the luncheon declined to talk about their Aug. 3 experience because they have been instructed by Police Chief Greg Allen to not talk to the media about their experiences.
D'Agostino said both El Paso Police and Fire Department personnel have been told not to talk to the news media about their experiences related to the shooting because it's still under investigation.
"We don't want to hamper it," he said.
Romero, who the El Paso Times interviewed after the luncheon, said he's had no problems dealing with the mass shooting aftermath.
"At first, (like) any normal person, I just feel more sad," Romero said. "Our city went through this, and it hurts everyone."