Nineteen children and two teachers were killed after a gunman barricaded himself in a fourth-grade classroom in Uvalde, Texas, and opened fire.
Tuesday’s massacre took place at Robb Elementary School just days before the end of the school year. What should have been a holiday soon turned into a time of sorrow and pain.
Families gathered at a town hall that evening to find out if their loved ones had survived. Some had the grim task of providing DNA swabs to help investigators determine if their relatives were among the victims.
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Wednesday afternoon, at least six families said they had received devastating news. The bodies of nine victims were released to funeral homes on Wednesday evening, Judge Lalo Diaz told CNN. The remaining 12 bodies of victims will be released later Wednesday evening or Thursday, Diaz said.
Here’s what friends and relatives want everyone to remember about the people they’ve lost:
Irma Garcia, a teacher at Robb Elementary, has been identified as a victim in Tuesday’s shooting, CNN has confirmed via a GoFundMe site set up to raise money for funeral expenses and family needs.
Garcia was a wife and mother of four children, according to the GoFundMe campaign.
“Sweet, kind, loving. Fun with the greatest personality. A wonderful grade 4 teacher at Robb Elementary who was the victim of a shooting at a Texas school in Uvalde, Texas. She sacrificed herself to protect the children in her class. She was a hero. She was loved by many and will be truly missed,” the campaign said.
Garcia’s cousin, John Martinez, told The Washington Post that officials had informed the family that she was helping protect students from the gunfire.
“I want her to be remembered as someone who sacrificed her life and risked her life for her children,” Martinez told the Post on Wednesday. “It wasn’t just her students. Those were her children, and she put her life on the line, she lost her life to protect them. She was that kind of person.”
According to Garcia’s profile on the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District website, she had been a teacher for 23 years. It was her fifth year co-teaching with Eva Mireles, who was also tragically shot in elementary school.
Amerie Jo Garza
For seven hours, Angel Garza scrambled to find his 10-year-old daughter, Amerie Jo. On Facebook, he appealed to the public for help.
“I’m not asking to post much or even very little here, but please. It’s been seven hours and I still haven’t heard from my sweetheart,” Garza wrote. “Please help me find my daughter.”
On Wednesday morning, Garza gave a heartbreaking update.
“Thank you all for the prayers and help in finding my baby. She has been found. My little love now flies high with the angels above it,” wrote Garza.
“Please don’t take a second for granted. Hug your family. Tell them you love them. I love you Amerie jo. Take care of your little brother for me.”
Garza told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday that his daughter had just turned 10 two weeks ago. The family gave her a phone, which she requested, Garza said.
Garza discovered that his daughter was trying to use her phone to call authorities during the shooting, two students told him. He explained that he was a medical officer and commented on the scene where he saw a girl covered in blood and told him that someone had shot her best friend. When Garza asked who her best friend was, the girl said his daughter’s name.
“I just want people to know that she died trying to save her classmates. She just wanted to save everyone,” Garza said.
The family tries to come to terms with Amerie’s death. Garza said his 3-year-old son asks for his sister every morning when he wakes up.
“We told him that his sister is now with God and that she will no longer be with us,” he said through tears.
“She was the sweetest girl who didn’t do anything wrong,” Garza said, collapsing. “I just want to know what she did to become a victim.”
A fourth-grade teacher, Eva Mireles, was also murdered at the school, relatives told CNN.
Mireles had been a teacher for 17 years. Erica Torres recalled the care with which Mireles treated her son Stanley, who has autism, while he was in her third and fourth grades. In an effort to keep him from wandering around the school, Mireles put Stanley in charge of gathering students to go to class.
“She made you feel like she was just teaching your child,” Torres said. “As if there are no other students than him. She made you feel so good.”
Mireles’ daughter, Adalynn, tweeted a tribute to her mother on Wednesday, a relative confirmed to CNN. The tweet also featured a photo of Adalynn and her mother.
“Mom, you’re a hero. I keep telling myself this isn’t real. I just want to hear your voice,” the tribute read. “I want to thank you, Mom, for being such an inspiration to me. I will forever be so proud to be your daughter. My dear mama, I will see you again.”
In her spare time, Mireles enjoyed running, hiking, biking and being with her family, according to her profile on the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District website.
“She was a lively soul. She spread laughter and joy everywhere,” family member Amber Ybarra told CNN. “She was a loving and caring mother, family member and teacher to her students, and it is absolutely tragic what is happening.”
Hours before he was killed, 10-year-old Xavier Lopez was hailed at Robb Elementary’s honors roll ceremony, his mother, Felicha Martinez, told The Washington Post.
Martinez took a photo of her fourth-grader and told him she was proud of him and loved him. That was the last moment she would share with her ‘mama’s boy’.
“He was funny, never serious, and his smile…” Felicha Martinez told the Post, her voice breaking. “I will never forget that smile. It would always cheer everyone up.”
Just days before finishing his senior year of elementary school, Xavier was counting down to his official step up the academic ladder to Flores Middle School in Uvalde, his mother told the Post.
“He really couldn’t wait to go to high school,” she said.
The family of 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia told CNN that their fourth-grader was one of the dead at Robb Elementary.
Uziyah was “full of life”, according to an uncle, Mitch Renfro. He loved video games and anything with wheels, leaving behind two sisters.
“The sweetest little boy I’ve ever known,” Garcia’s grandfather Manny Renfro told CNN affiliate KSAT. “I’m not just saying that because he was my grandchild.”
Uziyah last visited his grandfather in San Angelo during his spring break. Renfro remembers playing with him with a football and how quickly his grandson got into the sport.
“We started throwing the football together and I taught him passing patterns. Such a quick little boy and he could catch a ball so well,” said Renfro. “There were certain plays I would name that he would remember and he would do it exactly as we practiced.”
Jose Flores Jr.
Jose Flores Jr., 10, was also among those killed at Robb Elementary, his father told Jose Flores Sr. to CNN.
Flores described the fourth grader as an amazing kid and big brother to his two siblings. Jose loved baseball and video games.
“He was always full of energy,” Flores said. “Ready to play until the night.”
Felix and Kimberly Rubio had just celebrated their daughter Lexi’s achievements at school before she was murdered.
Lexi, who was 10 years old and in fourth grade, had made the All-A honors list and received a good citizen award, her parents told CNN.
“We told her we loved her and would pick her up after school. We had no idea this was a goodbye,” Kimberly Rubio wrote in a Facebook post.
The parents told CNN they were proud of their daughter, who loved softball and basketball. She wanted to be a lawyer growing up, the family told CNN.
“She was kind, sweet and valued life. She would become an all-star in softball and had a bright future, be it sports or academic. Please let the world know we miss our baby.”
Felix Rubio, a deputy sheriff at the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office, told CNN’s Jason Carroll that he was one of several authorities responding to the shooting scene. The grieving father said he wants gun violence to be addressed.
“I can only hope she’s just not a number,” he said with tears in his eyes. “This is enough. No one else has to go through this. We’ve never had to go through this, but we are.”
Tess Marie Mata
Tess Marie Mata, 10, had saved up money for a trip to Disney World with her family before she was murdered at Robb Elementary, her sister, Faith Mata, told The Washington Post.
Tess was in fourth grade and loved TikTok dancing, Ariana Grande and the Houston Astros, Faith Mata told the Post.
“My precious angel, you are loved so much. In my eyes you are not a victim but a survivor. I love you always and forever, little sister, may your wings fly higher than you could ever dream,’ Faith Mata wrote on Twitter.
Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez
Relatives identified Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, 10, as one of the victims, according to CNN affiliate KHOU-TV.
She was a third grader at the school. Her family told KHOU that she was in the same classroom as her cousin, who was also shot and killed.
The cousin’s name has not been released.
Eliana ‘Ellie’ Garcia
Relatives identified Eliana “Ellie” Garcia, 9, as one of the victims, according to CNN affiliate KHOU.
Garcia’s grandparents, Rogelio Lugo and Nelda Lugo, told the Los Angeles Times that she was in the fourth grade and the second oldest of five girls in the family.
She loved the movie ‘Encanto’, cheerleading and basketball, according to her grandparents. They add that she dreamed of becoming a teacher.
Elijah ‘Elia’ Cruz Torres
Eliahana “Elijah” Cruz Torres, 10, was also killed in the shooting, her aunt Leandra Vera told CNN. “Our baby has got wings,” Vera said.
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