They stood in the moonlight there at Kohler (Nopal) Park where only the day before their friend died after being shot with a .22-caliber rifle.
Alex Longoria was shot, according to police, after he and another man, identified later as Richard Longoria, got into an argument.
Alex was taken to Christus Spohn Hospital Beeville but died shortly thereafter.
Richard was arrested later that evening, charged with the shooting; however, police are still searching for the driver of the car that took the shooter from the park.
On Monday evening, many of Alex’s friends were still in shock at the news.
Nehemiah Granado stood in the center of Monday’s gathering at the park.
His voice echoed through the crowd as he spoke of his friend.
“We have to remember everything he taught us,” he said.
“He is not dead. He is just gone away for a bit. He is still watching over us.”
Nehemiah said that Alex wouldn’t have wanted his friends to shed tears over his death.
“We have to live life as he would want to live it,” he said. “Let his life go on through us.”
For many of those out there, Alex was a role model.
“I am not ashamed to say he did what I couldn’t as a man,” Nehemiah said.
“I got into trouble. I got sent away (to prison). He took care of my little girl. That is something my own family wouldn’t do — but he did it.
“He gave me clothes off his back when I needed it.
“He gave me a place to stay when I needed it.
“He pushed me to do right even though I didn’t listen.
“He was the only one that didn’t give up on me.”
All of his friends shared similar stories.
“When you were down and needed that smile — he was there,” Adrian Martinez said. “If you talked to him for five minutes, you were happier than you were five minutes before.”
Alex, who everyone described as a family man, always welcomed people into his home.
“What would he always say when we went to his house?” Aaron Martinez said, glancing over at his friends seated on the green park bench. “If we ain’t comfortable, he ain’t comfortable.”
Alex was one of the many students who graduated from A.C. Jones High School and was part of the welding program each year.
“He loved to weld,” Justine Gomez said.
Ashton Perez said that Alex was expecting to get his own welding truck soon. He was working at the time for Tierra Lease as a welder’s apprentice.
His dedication to the job was unparalleled and while he enjoyed socializing, he never let that interfere with work.
“If he had to work, he was in bed by 9 p.m.,” Ashton said.
“He had his priorities in order,” Aaron said.
No matter what was going on in his life, he always kept his spirits high.
Alex, they all agreed, was not one to let adversity draw him down.
“He was so optimistic,” Aaron said. “He would always say, ‘Everything is going to be all right.’”
It was his strength of spirit, generosity and compassion that compelled Justine to remain friends with him even after she moved to Austin.
Even the day of his death, she received a simple text from him.
“He had sent me a message at 2:29 that afternoon,” she said. “It was just a little ‘Hello.’
“I didn’t reply because I was working.”
A short time later she heard the news. She, like the rest, wanted to hold the vigil as a chance to say goodbye. And they coordinated this within only a couple of hours.
Friends hugged and wept as they shared stories about Alex that evening beneath the towering mesquite tree at the park.
“We have to celebrate his life,” Nehemiah said. “Not mourn his death.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.