Desperation has turned to heartbreaking grief for the families of school children killed after an 18-year-old gunman barricaded himself in their classroom in Texas and began shooting, killing 19 children and their two teachers.
On Wednesday morning, many were faced with the grim reality of unimaginable horror as the names of the young victims of Tuesday’s shooting at Robb Elementary School in the southwestern town of Uvalde began to emerge.
Among them were relatives of 10-year-old Eliahna Garcia, who learned on Tuesday evening that she was among those killed, her aunt, Siria Arizmemdi, said.
“She was very happy and very outgoing,” said Arizmendi, a fifth-grade teacher at Flores Elementary School in the same school district.
“She loved dancing and playing sports. She was big in the family, loved being with the family.”
The children were all in the same class
Veronica Luevanos, whose 10-year-old daughter Jaliah Nicole Silguero was among the victims, tearfully told Univision that her daughter didn’t want to go to school on Tuesday and the girl seemed to sense something was going to happen. Jaliah’s cousin also died in the shooting.
All of the dead were in the same fourth-grade classroom, where the gunman barricaded himself and opened fire on children and teachers, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said at a press conference on Wednesday. . He said the shooter used a weapon and posted on Facebook shortly before the shooting, “I’m going to shoot an elementary school.”
Superintendent of Schools Hal Harrell held back tears as he spoke of the children and their teachers.
“You can just tell by their angelic smiles that they were loved,” Harrell said of the kids. “That they loved coming to school, that they were just precious people.”
Both professors “put their heart and soul” into their work, he said.
Vincent Salazar’s 10-year-old daughter, Layla, was among those killed. She enjoyed swimming and dancing to videos on TikTok, her father said. An avid runner, she won six races on the school’s field day, and Salazar proudly posted a photo of Layla showing off two of her ribbons on Facebook.
Every morning as he drove her to school in his pick-up truck, Salazar would play Sweet Child O Mine, from Guns ‘n’ Roses and they would sing along, he said. She was excited to see the new Marvel movie, Thor: Love and Thunder.
“She was just a lot of fun,” he said.
‘The sweetest little boy’
Manny Renfro said he learned on Tuesday that his grandson, Uziyah Garcia, 8, was among those killed.
“The sweetest little boy I’ve ever known,” Renfro said. “I’m not saying that just because he was my grandson.”
Renfro said Uziyah last visited him in San Angelo during spring break. “We started throwing football together and I was teaching him passing patterns. Such a fast little boy and he could catch a ball so well,” Renfro said. “There were certain parts that I would call that he would remember and he would do it just like we practiced.”
Lisa Garza, 54, of Arlington, Texas, mourned the death of her 10-year-old cousin Xavier Javier Lopez, who was looking forward to a summer of swimming.
“He was just a loving little boy, just enjoying life, not knowing this tragedy was going to happen,” she said. “He was very bubbly, loved dancing with his brothers, his mother. It just affected us all.”
She also lamented what she described as lax gun laws.
“We should have more restrictions, especially if these kids are not in their right mindset and all they want to do is just hurt people, especially innocent kids going to school. “, said Garza.
Arizmendi also spoke angrily, through tears, about how the shooter managed to get a gun.
“It’s just hard to understand or put into words,” she said. “I just don’t know how people can sell this type of gun to an 18-year-old kid. What is he going to use it for if not for this purpose?”
The teacher was also a mother
Eva Mireles, 44, a slain fourth-grade teacher, is remembered as a loving mother and wife. “She was adventurous. … She will certainly be greatly missed,” said Amber Ybarra, a 34-year-old relative from San Antonio.
As Ybarra prepared to donate blood for the wounded, she wondered how no one had noticed trouble with the shooter in time to stop him.
“For me, it’s more about raising awareness about mental health,” said Ybarra, a wellness coach who herself attended Robb Elementary. “Someone could have seen a dramatic change before something like this happened.”
In a post on the school’s website at the start of the school year, Mireles introduced herself to her new students.
“Welcome to 4th grade! We have a wonderful year ahead of us! she wrote, noting that she’s been teaching for 17 years, loves running and hiking, and has a “supportive, fun, loving family.” She mentioned that her husband was a school district police officer and they had a grown daughter and three “furry friends.”
In the hours following the shooting, photos of smiling children were posted on social media, with their families begging for information. Classes were over for the year and each school day had a theme. Tuesday was Footloose and Fancy, and students were expected to wear a nice outfit with fun or fancy shoes.
At a civic center where desperate relatives gathered to check in on Tuesday night, a man walked away sobbing into his phone: “She’s gone.” Behind the building, a woman stood alone, alternately crying and shouting into her phone, clenching her fist and stamping her foot.
Even for the survivors, there was grief.
Lorena Auguste was a substitute teacher at Uvalde Secondary School when she heard about the shooting. She began frantically texting her niece, a fourth-grader at Robb Elementary, until Auguste heard from her sister that the child was fine.
Auguste said his niece asked him that night, “Tia, why did they do this to us? We’re good kids, we didn’t do anything wrong.”
Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home, located across from Robb Elementary School, said in a Facebook post that it would help the families of the shooting victims at no funeral cost.