The gathering for 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza was held Monday at the Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home in Uvalde, Texas, just across the street from the elementary school where the children, along with two teachers, were shot last week before the gunman himself was killed. The visit for another 10-year-old, Maite Rodriguez, took place at the city’s other funeral home.
Over the next two and a half traumatic weeks, the people of the southwest Texas city will say goodbye to the children and their teachers, one heartbreaking visit, one funeral, and one funeral after another. As family and friends vent their grief, investigators are pressing for answers about how police responded to the May 24 shooting, and lawmakers have said they will consider what can be done to stop the gun violence curb that pervades the nation.
Funerals for 11 children and teacher Irma Garcia are planned this week alone.
On Monday, some mourners at Amerie’s visit wore shades of lilac or lavender — Amerie’s favorites — at the request of her father, Angel Garza. Many brought in flowers, including purple ones.
The little girl, who loved to draw, just got a cell phone for her 10th birthday. One of her friends told Angel Garza that Amerie tried to call the police during the attack on her fourth grade classroom.
Among the mourners at Amerie’s visit were some of Maite’s relatives. Like many others, they attended both.
Maite’s family wore green tie-dye shirts with an illustration showing Maite with angel wings. Before going to the funeral home, they stopped at the moat to see metal gate gunner Salvador Ramos crashing into a pickup truck before crossing a field and entering the school.
“How could he walk so long?” asked Juana Magaña, Maite’s aunt.
The Hillcrest Memorial itself and the shooting will forever be linked. After Ramos demolished the truck, two men from the funeral home heard the impact and ran to the scene. Ramos shot her. He missed and both men got to safety.
Eliahna “Ellie” Garcia’s funeral will be on June 6 – the day after she was supposed to be 10 years old. Her family had prepared a big birthday party at her grandmother’s house for the coming weekend. She had hoped to receive gifts related to the Disney film Encanto.
“She loved that film and talked about it a lot,” said her aunt Siria Arizmendi.
Quiet within the family herself, Ellie enjoyed making videos and had already been practicing choreography with her older sister for her quinceañera party — the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday — although it was five years away, Arizmendi said.
Ellie’s older sister is doing well, Arizmendi said, understanding that her family and others have a long road to recovery ahead of them.
“It’s just sad for all the kids,” she said.
Funeral directors, embalmers, and others from across Texas came to help. Jimmy Lucas, president of the Texas Funeral Directors Association, brought a hearse and volunteered to work as a driver, advocate for services, or do whatever he could, he told NBC News. Other arriving morticians were there to assist with facial reconstruction in light of the damage inflicted by the gunman’s military rifle.
Governor Greg Abbott, speaking on Memorial Day in Longview, urged Texans to keep Uvalde in their prayers.
“What happened in Uvalde was a terrible act of evil,” Abbott said. “And as Texans, we have to come together and build Uvalde and support her in any way we can. It will take time to heal from the devastation that families have been through and are going through there, but rest assured we will not stop until Uvalde recovers.”
The US Department of Justice on Sunday announced a review of law enforcement response. Police have been heavily criticized for taking well over an hour to kill Ramos in adjacent classrooms, where he committed carnage.
Officials revealed Friday that students and teachers repeatedly called 911 operators for help when a police commander asked more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway. Officials said the commander believed the suspect had been barricaded in an adjacent classroom and there was no longer an active attack.
The revelation raised new questions about whether lives were lost because officers didn’t act faster to stop the shooter, who was eventually killed by Border Patrol tactical officers.
Authorities said Ramos legally purchased two guns shortly before the school was attacked: an AR-style rifle on May 17 and a second rifle on May 20. He had just turned 18, which allowed him to purchase the guns under federal law.
A day after visiting Uvalde and promising “we will,” in response to people’s cries of “do something,” President Joe Biden on Monday expressed some optimism that there could be some bipartisan support to end the restrictions used by the shooter to sharpen for this type of high-powered weapon.
“I think things have gotten so bad that everyone is becoming more reasonable, at least I hope so,” Biden told reporters before honoring the nation’s Memorial Day fallen at Arlington National Cemetery.
“The Second Amendment was never absolute,” Biden said. “You couldn’t buy a cannon when the Second Amendment was passed. You couldn’t go out and buy a lot of guns.”
A bipartisan group of senators discussed over the weekend whether they could reach even a modest compromise on gun safety legislation. Encouraging “red flag” legislation to keep guns away from people with mental health problems and addressing school safety and mental health resources are on the table, said Senator Chris Murphy, who is leading the effort.
The group will meet again this week with 10 days’ notice to reach an agreement.
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https://abc13.com/uvalde-funeral-visitation-massacre-texas-school-shooting/11911452/ Texas school shooting: Uvalde mourns, says goodbye at visits, funerals amid investigation