by Elliot Spagett and Acacia Coronado
UVALDE, Texas ( Associated Press) — One student was an avid runner, so he ran so fast on field day races. The other was learning football plays from his grandfather. A girl felt something was wrong and wanted to drop out of school.
On Wednesday, stories began to emerge about the lives of 19 children — “precious persons” according to the school district superintendent — and their two teachers who were locked behind a barricaded door at Rob’s Elementary School in the southwestern Texas town of Uvalde. was.
Vincent Salazar said that his 11-year-old daughter Laila loves to swim and dance on Tik Tok videos. She was fast—she won six races at the school’s field day, and Salazar proudly posted a photo of Layla showing off her two ribbons on Facebook.
Every morning when he took her to school in his pickup, Salazar would play “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses and they sang along, he said.
“She was just totally funny,” he said.
Manny Renfro lost his 10-year-old grandson, Ujiah Garcia, in a shooting.
“The cutest little boy I’ve ever known,” said Renfro. “I’m not saying this just because she was my granddaughter.”
Renfro said Ujiah last visited him in San Angelo during spring break. “We started throwing football together and I was teaching him the pass pattern. Such a quick little boy and he could catch the ball so well,” Renfro said. “There were some plays that I’d say he’ll remember and he’ll do just like we rehearsed.”
Javier Cazares said he learned on Tuesday afternoon that his 9-year-old daughter, Jacqueline Cazares, had been killed in his class. She was accompanied by a group of five girls, including her second cousin, Annabel Rodriguez, who formed a tight circle of friends.
“They’re all gone now,” said Cazares.
The extended families of the slain cousins gathered at a barbecue on Wednesday to mourn and console each other.
Cazares described her daughter as a “cracker” who “had a voice, didn’t like bullying, didn’t like being raised by kids.”
“Everything, full of love. He had a big heart,” he said.
Veronica Luvenos, whose 10-year-old daughter, Jelah Nicole Silguero, was among the victims, tearfully told Univision that her daughter didn’t want to go to school on Tuesday and thought something bad was about to happen. Jaila’s cousin also died due to bullet injuries.
All the dead were in the same fourth-grade classroom where the shooter barricaded himself on Tuesday and opened fire on children and their teachers, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told a news conference on Wednesday. He said the gunman used an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle in the attack and posted on Facebook shortly before the shooting: “I’m going to shoot an elementary school.”
School superintendent Hal Harrell shed tears while talking about the children and their teachers.
Harrell said of the children, “You could tell by their angelic smiles that they were loved.” “That they loved coming to school, that they were just precious people.”
Harrell said that the two teachers “put their heart and soul” into their work.
Teacher Eva Miracles, 44, was remembered as a loving mother and wife. “She was courageous. … She is definitely going to be very missed,” said Amber Ybarra, 34, a relative of San Antonio.
In a post on the school’s website at the start of the school year, Miralles introduces himself to his new students.
“Welcome to fourth grade! We have a wonderful year ahead!” She wrote, noting that she had been teaching for 17 years, loved running and hiking, and had a “supportive, fun, and loving family.” She mentioned that her husband was a school district police officer, and they had an older daughter and three “dear friends”.
The other slain teacher, Irma García, wrote about her four children, including one who was in the Marines, in a letter introducing herself to the class. Garcia’s 21-year-old nephew, John Martinez, told the Detroit Free Press that the family was struggling to understand why his mother was shot and killed when Garcia’s son trained for the war.
ngel Garza, a medical assistant with a stepdaughter at the school, arrived shortly after the shooting and found herself helping injured and shaken students.
A girl was covered in blood and asked if she had been shot.
“I am not hurt. He shot my best friend,” said the girl. “She is not breathing. She was just trying to call the police.”
And then she named her stepdaughter, Ameri Jo Garza, friend.
Ameri was a happy-go-lucky kid who got her first cell phone at the age of 10 and a certificate on the morning of shooting to make an honor roll. He also loved to paint and paint and work in clay.
Garza said that in his grief he wondered what had happened in those brief moments before Ameri was killed, if he had said anything to the shooter, if he had seen him reach for his phone. And then she remembered the moment she got the phone call for her birthday, and her face.
“It just lit up with the happiest expression,” Garza said. “She was so sweet.”
Relatives of 10-year-old Eliana Garcia remember her family’s love.
“She was very happy and very outgoing,” said Eliana’s aunt, Siria Arizmendi, a fifth-grade teacher at Flores Elementary School in the same district. “She loved to dance and play sports. She was the eldest in the family, enjoying being with the family. ,
Lisa Garza, 54, of Arlington, Texas, mourned the death of her 10-year-old cousin, Javier James 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 flirtatious, loved to dance with his brothers, his mother. It weighed heavily on all of us.”
She lamented what she described as loose gun laws.
“We should impose more sanctions, especially if these children are not in their right state of mind and they only want to hurt people, especially innocent children who go to school,” Garza said.
Arizmendi also spoke, through tears of anger, about how the shooter managed to obtain a gun.
“It’s hard to understand or put into words,” she said. “I don’t know how people can sell a gun like that to an 18 year old. For what purpose is he going to use it but for that purpose?”
As Yabara was preparing to donate blood for the wounded, she wondered how no one had noticed the trouble in time to stop the shooter.
“For me, it’s more about raising mental health awareness,” said Yabara, a wellness coach who attended Rob Elementary herself. “Someone would have seen a dramatic change before something like this happened.”
There was grief for the survivors as well.
Lorena was teaching at Auguste Uvalde High School when she heard about the shooting. It wasn’t until Auguste heard from her sister that the baby was fine, she began sending messages to her niece, who was in fourth grade at Rob Elementary.
Auguste said that her niece asked her that night, “Tia, why did they do this to us? We’re good kids, we didn’t do anything wrong.”
Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home, which is located across the street from Robb Elementary School, said in a Facebook post that it would assist the families of shooting victims at no cost to funerals. GoFundMe pages were set up for multiple victims, including one on behalf of all victims, who have raised more than $1.5 million.
Associated Press writer Jim Vertuno in Uvalde, Texas; Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas; Jamie Stengel in Dallas; Don Babwin in Chicago; Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Roxana Hegman in Wichita, Kansas; John Hannah in Topeka, Kansas; Jill Zeman Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas; Bernard Condon in New York; and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed.
This story has been corrected to show Laila Salazar’s age as 11 years, not 10. It also corrects the spelling of the first name of one of the children killed. Her name was Annabel Rodriguez, not Annabelle Rodriguez. The story incorrectly quoted Javier López’s middle name as Javier. His name was Javier James Lopez. And, the age of another victim has also been listed incorrectly in the story. Ujiah Garcia was 10 years old, not 8 years old.