DALLAS — The family of Santos Rodriguez has waited four decades for an apology from the City of Dallas.
It has been that long since a Dallas police officer shot and killed the 12-year-old boy in his squad car.
Santos' story is one of many cases that have strained race relations within Dallas over the years, but on Saturday there was a real sign of change, directly from Mayor Mike Rawlings himself.
The mayor was speaking to about 500 people attending a race relations meeting at the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
At the end of his address, Rawlings issued the apology for the death of Santos Rodriguez.
The mayor received a standing ovation.
Bessie Rodriguez, Santos' mother, said she was cooking breakfast when she got a phone call about the mayor's apology. She said she dropped whatever was in her hands and almost lost her balance.
“It got me real nervous because I have been waiting for this for so long,” she said.
Rodriguez said her son would have been 53 years old if he were still alive. She said there isn’t a day that goes by where she’s not reminded of her son’s love or his smile.
“For any mother to lose a son or daughter or any kinfolk... it's real hard,” Rodriguez said.
County Commissioner Elba Garcia and City Council member Dwaine Caraway were on hand for the race relations meeting, an event called "A Conversation About Race."
“It's a first step in healing our communities; making something positive out of a tragedy,” Garcia said.
Saturday’s event was the first of four meetings cultural groups hope to host to help improve race relations in Dallas.
“A lot of it is about perception and confusion, because we do not interact with one another,” Hector Flores said.
“Things that have happened in the past you can forgive, but you will never forget,” Caraway said.
The graphic images of the 1973 riots in the streets of Dallas are still etched in many people’s minds; riots that first started as peaceful protests against the Dallas Police Department.
Bessie Rodriguez said this isn’t just a victory for her son, it’s a victory for all people who are still seeking justice for their loved ones.
She does hope Mayor Rawlings will eventually deliver the apology to her directly.
“Maybe we'll have this chance later on to talk person-to-person... plus I want to hear it from him,” Rodriguez said.