After the shooting, the city of Uvalde reels from the tragedy

Uvalde, Texas (CNN) — Crystal Sanchez recalls the smiles of hundreds of children as they received free manicures and had their hair spray-painted during the “Día de los Ninos” celebration at the Uvalde County Fairplex. Parents and residents of this small South Texas town dedicated hours solely to honoring and celebrating their children.

Nearly a month later, memories of that April 29 event feel distant for Sanchez, a 42-year-old mother of two who works at a local beauty school.

Pain and frustration have set in, and prayers have replaced the laughter that once echoed throughout the place outside a town 80 miles west of San Antonio. Since Tuesday, residents have gathered daily to mourn after grief erupted in what feels like nearly every home in this city of some 16,000 people.

Mass tragedy came to Uvalde this week when 19 children and two of their teachers were killed by a gunman at Robb Elementary School, just two days before summer break. Children have always been the center of the town’s pride and joy, dozens of residents say. And now, the loss of some of Uvalde’s brightest lights has become a source of anguish.

In downtown Uvalde, two of the longest federal highways in the United States — US Highway 83 and US 90 — intersect just like the feelings of many families this week. In one corner, portraits of high school seniors line the lawn in front of City Hall. In another corner, flowers were placed next to white crosses bearing the names of each of Tuesday’s 21 victims along the fountain in the town square.

The names of the 19 children and two teachers killed are written on crosses in front of the school.

“This was something that should never have happened,” Sanchez said. “Our prayers are with everyone because everywhere I go, everyone was affected, whether you had a child there or not. If you didn’t, you feel guilty because you can go home and feel happy with your family when you know they will never come back.” to be the same”.

“We move in packs”

Wearing maroon-colored clothing in Uvalde is not unusual. But the number of people wearing the city’s colors has multiplied over the week and has taken on a new meaning.

For decades, fathers, grandmothers and children filled the stands of Honey Bowl Stadium each fall to cheer on the Uvalde Coyotes during Friday night football games. After farmers and ranchers return home from the field and many businesses close, residents routinely head to the stadium to watch one of their favorite pastimes.

As Uvalde tries to find solace after Tuesday’s shooting, Marie Alice Ramos says there was nothing she could say to her friends or family that would make them feel better. Dressed in her maroon T-shirt, she says she, she pointed to something beyond her words.

“It’s a statement. It shows that we are trying to come together as one in a community that has been devastated,” the 45-year-old bartender said after she and a group of relatives, all dressed in maroon, stood near the Primary School. Robb Wednesday night.

At a vigil for the 19 children and two teachers on Wednesday, many wore maroon T-shirts normally worn on game days.

“We move in packs. Coyotes move in packs,” said one of her cousins, Jessica Ahoyt, who stood next to her as she hugged her daughter.

Ahoyt’s daughter later added, “Once a coyote, always a coyote.”

Ramos’s cousin, Irma Garcia, one of the teachers killed in the shooting, was a Uvalde High coyote 30 years ago.

The words “Howling ’til 92” and an image of a coyote howling at the moon shine on the cover of Garcia’s high school yearbook. Her pages show her and her husband, Joe, in the early years of her love affair.

A couple of days after his wife was killed, Joe Garcia had a heart attack and died.

In a GoFundMe campaign posted by another of Irma Garcia’s cousins, family members said they “truly believe” that Joe died of a broken heart and that losing the love of his life was “too hard to bear.”

Tyler Garcia, 21, above, puts up a sign during a car wash and food sale to raise money for the families of those killed.

For more than two decades, Garcia dedicated her time to her own children and those of others. She took care of them, hoping that one day they would go to college.

“His commitment to the kids at the school went further, to another level. He made the biggest sacrifice anyone could make,” Ramos said. “She is a true heroine.”

“Uvalde strong”

Surrounded by century-old oak trees, three or four generations of Mexican-American families have lived in the same homes, often filled with the aroma of barbecued meat on the weekends and the sound of Tejano, country, banda, and other Hispanic music. .

Summer is perfect to do tubing in some of the clearest rivers in Texas: the nearby Nueces, Frio and Sabinal. And year-round, weekends are reserved for hour-long hikes in Garner State Park, shopping in San Antonio, and celebrations like quinceañeras and weddings.

But many of those plans were canceled this weekend as everyday life was shattered.

Graduating seniors dressed in their caps and gowns had walked the halls of Robb Elementary School on Monday with their younger siblings, nieces and nephews cheering them on. The rest of his activities for the week of the senior year were stopped, including his graduation.

As families awaited answers about their children’s condition on Tuesday and then faced devastating news, people in Uvalde initially sheltered in their homes to pray with loved ones or simply to stay close.

Michael Cavasos, 40, left, Brenda Perez, 39, right, and Eduardo Galindo, 57, wait in line to donate blood the day after the deadly mass shooting.

But within hours, many said they were growing restless and began looking for ways to support their neighbors as the city begins the grueling process of burying the 21 victims. By Thursday, the victims’ remains were delivered to funeral homes, where relatives had left clothing and other items for burials.

A family built wooden crosses for each of the victims and delivered them to Robb Elementary School. Hundreds waited for hours in the Texas heat to donate blood. Various people designed artwork for the new maroon T-shirts that resemble those seen in other communities after a mass shooting.

“Uvalde Strong” (Uvalde Fuerte, in Spanish), said the shirts.

Omar Rodriguez organized a car wash and food sale to raise money. He wants to raise $21,000, $1,000 for each family that he has lost a loved one.

Omar Rodriguez, owner of a car cleaning business, prepared 250 hamburgers to raise funds for the families of the victims. In a friend’s lot on Main Street, Rodriguez set up a large grill, tables and cooking supplies while his family and friends grabbed rags and car wash soap in return for a donation.

Rodriguez says she couldn’t stay home thinking there might be something she could do to help.

“This is a good little town. There’s nothing but love here,” the 24-year-old said.

“Our babies”

Two words cropped up repeatedly in conversations as people bought breakfast tacos inside Stripes convenience store, served food and drinks at a popular Mexican restaurant, or bought meat at HEB grocery store.

“Our babies,” the residents said. To them, the children murdered at Robb Elementary School were simply family.

Lucia Guedea, a 53-year-old municipal worker in Uvalde, says most if not all of the residents had a connection to the victims. They went to school together or were classmates with their parents, they know their aunts and grandparents, or they watched them play soccer, basketball, softball, or T-ball with their own children.

“They (children) are the center of our activities here,” Guedea said.

Earlier this week, Guedea’s 11-year-old daughter, Raquel, and 20 other children walked down the aisle of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. In silence, they held a red rose while a priest pronounced the names of the victims:

Eva Mireles

Amerie Jo Garza

Xavier Javier Lopez

Uziyah Garcia

José Flores Jr.

Alexandria “Lexi” Rubio

Irma Garcia

Eliana “Ellie” Garcia

Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez

Tess Marie Mata

Elijah “Elijah” Cruz Torres

Nevaeh Bravo

Jacklyn Jaylen Cazares

Jailah Nicole Silguero

Makenna Lee Elrod

Jayce Carmelo Luevanos

Alithia Ramirez

Layla Salazar

Maite Rodriguez

Rojelio Torres

Maranda Mathis

“I trust that the children, the children will help us get the job done,” Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of the Archdiocese of San Antonio said at the end of the bilingual Mass.

After mass ended, Guedea said her daughter didn’t attend Robb Elementary, but she wanted to make sure she did her part.

“I was happy to be able to honor them and their spirits,” said Raquel.

Four of the children and a teacher killed were members of the parish.

In the days after the shooting, parents in Uvalde held hands with their children and pushed their strollers to visit the school, attend vigils and pray at church services. Faith is a remedy that residents hope will guide them through their pain.

Iglesia Episcopal de San Felipe was one of several congregations that opened their doors to help Uvalde cope with the loss of 21 lives.

At the site of a makeshift memorial, they took their children to meet comfort dogs and grab free snow cones handed out by people from nearby towns.

A 10-year-old girl who attends Robb Primary School gripped her father’s hand tightly and didn’t say a word when a woman who had set up a table in the town square with care packages and stuffed animals told her she could grab what you want.

It wasn’t until her father encouraged her that she grabbed a unicorn. She said that she had missed work because she needed to be close to her daughter, that she is very shy and that she lost a cousin in the shooting.

Juan Martinez, 66, right, holds hands with his granddaughter Jillian Martinez, 7, left, at Martinez’s Town House restaurant Thursday.

In a city where life revolves around its youngest residents, festivals and community events always have something to keep kids entertained in the absence of places like Peter Piper Pizza or Chuck E. Cheese, says Sanchez, a staff member at the beauty school.

The community is torn between mourning those whose lives were cut short and trying to erase the anguish that the massacre has brought to the faces of their children. Locals like Sanchez say it will take time for them to heal, but they know their “babies” will push them to do so from heaven or Earth.

“We really live for our kids. Every day we wake up, we go to work, and it’s mostly to do something better for them. It’s what keeps us going, honest to God,” Sanchez said.

Share:

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

On Key

Related Posts