The parents of Brandy Escamilla and Josilyn Ruiz, who tragically lost their lives in the mass shooting on Saturday, share with PEOPLE how their daughters’ love story served as an inspiration to their Latino Catholic families. The engaged couple, who had been considering various destinations for their wedding venue, including Greece, were just a few months away from a family trip to Greece when the unfortunate incident occurred. Regrettably, Brandy Escamilla, aged 29, and Josilyn Ruiz, aged 26, were fatally shot on Saturday night outside a concert venue in Washington State.
In their first media interview since the devastating shooting, which claimed the lives of their beloved daughters and injured three others, Brandy’s parents, Blanca and Eddie Escamilla, along with Josilyn’s parents, Anita and John Ruiz, gathered virtually via Zoom on Wednesday night to speak about the profound love story of their daughters (watch an exclusive clip of the interview above).
Amidst the overwhelming grief, the parents fondly reminisced together, sharing laughter, tears, and embracing one another, as they recollected how their daughters first met in high school, openly embraced their sexual orientation in their conservative Latino Catholic households, and embarked on an 11-year love story tragically cut short by their untimely deaths on Saturday night. Brandy and Josilyn, who were inseparable in life, met the same fate as they lived: together, as confirmed by their grieving parents.
“They were destined to spend eternity together,” remarked Blanca, Brandy’s mother, while Josilyn’s mother nodded in agreement. “They were inseparable and unique in their togetherness.”
Anita added, “They taught us the essence of unconditional love,” as her husband leaned on her shoulder.
“And they knew how to enjoy life,” John chimed in. “Wherever they went, they effortlessly made friends and left a lasting impact on everyone they met.”
The paths of these remarkable women crossed at Brandy’s high school softball game, and over time, they both pursued careers as nurses, working tirelessly during the pandemic. They shared a passion for snowboarding and traveling, as well as a fondness for exquisite dining experiences. Constantly pushing each other to explore new horizons, in recent months, Josilyn had taken up acting classes and began learning Spanish, while Brandy rekindled her love for softball by joining a league after years of being away from the sport.
The couple, who had relocated from Los Angeles County, where both sets of parents reside, to Seattle in 2021, were contemplating another move. Exhausted by the trials of the pandemic, they had discussed the possibility of traveling to an underprivileged country to offer medical assistance, as disclosed by their parents.
In 2022, the women took turns proposing to each other. Brandy first got down on one knee during a ski trip in Canada, and six months later, Josilyn reciprocated the gesture among close friends in Seattle. The selection of engagement rings was a collaborative effort, with Brandy’s mother assisting in choosing Josilyn’s ring. Josilyn’s mother already affectionately referred to Brandy as “mija,” meaning “my daughter” in Spanish.
“There were so many things they still wanted to experience and express,” John shared. “As a father…” he paused, turning to address Brandy’s father, Eddie, “Eddie, as fathers, we feel the pain. We were unable to protect our girls.”
Eddie solemnly concurred, reflecting on how he had always been concerned about the risks associated with crowded concert venues and had cautioned his daughter about safety measures to avoid being caught in a stampede. “But the one thing I never prepared her for was dodging a bullet. I never imagined that,” he confessed, his voice trembling as he wiped his tears away. His wife leaned over, kissed his shoulder, and gently squeezed his arm.
Eddie continued, his voice filled with sorrow, “It’s incredibly difficult to come to terms with the fact that you invest so much time and love in your children, hoping they will grow into compassionate individuals and achieve their professional dreams, only to have them taken away from you in an instant. It’s a painful reality to accept, especially considering the kind-hearted people they were. They didn’t deserve such a tragic fate.”
According to their parents, the women were ardent advocates for gay rights. Josilyn even founded a Gay Straight Alliance during her time at a Catholic college. The couple, who had yet to settle on a specific wedding location, strongly believed in the significance and purpose of their marriage.
“Brandy wanted all the children in the family to be present,” shared Blanca, Brandy’s mother. “She wanted them to witness the beauty of their union, to understand that it’s perfectly acceptable if they desire the same.”
“To eradicate any shame,” added Eddie.
“She wanted the children to see that loving another woman is completely normal,” Blanca concluded.
Instead of making wedding arrangements, the heartbroken parents are now preparing for their daughters’ funerals. To assist with the costs associated with the funeral and the return of the couple’s belongings to California, the Escamilla and Ruiz families have launched a GoFundMe campaign. Among the items being brought back to the Escamilla household is Otis, a stray cat that the couple had rescued, affectionately referred to by Blanca as their “grand-gato” (grand-cat).
The parents are resolute in ensuring that their daughters’ love story does not end with their tragic demise. The couple had planned a trip to Italy and Greece in the coming fall, accompanied by Josilyn’s parents.
“We will still embark on our European journey,” affirmed Anita. Then, turning her attention to the Escamilla family, she warmly invited, “And, dear family, you should join us. Life is fleeting, and it’s essential that we celebrate their lives.”
(James M. Kelly, aged 26, an active-duty member of the U.S. Army, has been apprehended and charged with the murders. He has yet to enter a plea in response to the charges leveled against him.)