The rally for 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza was held at the Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home in Uvalde, Texas, directly across from the elementary school where the children, along with two teachers, were shot dead on Tuesday before the gunman shot him -even be killed. Visitation for another 10-year-old, Maite Rodriguez, was held at the other funeral home in town.
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Over the next two and a half traumatic weeks, residents of the southwest Texas town will say goodbye to children and their teachers, one heartbreaking visitation, funeral and burial after another. As family and friends release their grief, investigators will press for answers on how police responded to the shooting, and lawmakers said they will consider what can be done to stem gun violence that pervades the country.
This week alone, funerals are planned for 11 children and teacher Irma Garcia.
On Monday, some mourners during Amerie’s visit wore lilac or lavender shades of purple – Amerie’s favorites – at the request of her father, Angel Garza. Many wore flowers, including violets.
The little girl who loved to draw had just received a mobile phone for her 10th birthday. A friend of his told Angel Garza that Amerie tried to use the phone to call the police during the assault on his fourth grade class.
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Among the mourners when Amerie visited were relatives of Maite. Like many people, they attended both.
Maite’s family wore tie-dye green shirts with an illustration showing Maite with angel wings. Before entering the funeral home, they stopped at the ditch to see metal gate shooter Salvador Ramos which a van crashed into before crossing a field and entering the school.
“How could he walk so long? asked Juana Magaña, Maite’s aunt.
Hillcrest Memorial itself and the filming will be forever linked. After Ramos destroyed the truck, two men from the funeral home heard the crash and ran to the crash scene. Ramos shot them. He missed it and the two men made their way to safety.
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Eliahna “Ellie” Garcia’s funeral will take place on June 6 – the day after she turns 10. Her family had planned a big birthday party at her grandmother’s next weekend. She was hoping to receive gifts related to the Disney movie “Encanto.”
“She loved that movie and talked about it a lot,” said her aunt, Siria Arizmendi.
Ellie was calm even with family but loved making videos and had previously practiced choreography with her older sister for her quinceañera party – the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday – although it was still five years away, Arizmendi said. .
Ellie’s older sister is doing well, Arizmendi said, understanding that their family and others face a long road to recovery.
“It’s just sad for all the kids,” she said.
Funeral directors, embalmers and others from across Texas arrived to help. Jimmy Lucas, president of the Texas Funeral Directors Association, brought a hearse and volunteered to work as a driver, attend services or do whatever he could, he told NBC News. Other funeral directors who arrived were there to help with facial reconstruction services given the damage caused by the shooter’s military-style rifle.
SEE ALSO | Uvalde school shooter fired at least 6 times after police arrived, stayed in class for 77 minutes
Gov. Greg Abbott, speaking at a Memorial Day event in Longview, urged Texans to keep Uvalde in their prayers.
“What happened at Uvalde was a horribly evil act,” Abbott said. “And as Texans, we need to come together and lift Uvalde and support them in any way we can. It will take time to heal the devastation the families there have suffered and are going through, but rest assured, we won’t back down. until Uvalde recovers.”
The US Department of Justice announced a review of the law enforcement response on Sunday. Police were heavily criticized for taking more than an hour to kill Ramos in nearby classrooms where he unleashed carnage.
Officials revealed Friday that students and teachers repeatedly pleaded for help from 911 operators as a police commander told more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway. Officials said the commander believed the suspect was 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 did not act more quickly to arrest the shooter, who was ultimately killed by Border Patrol tactical agents.
Authorities said Ramos legally purchased two weapons shortly before the school attack: an AR-type 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 chanting “Do something,” President Joe Biden on Monday expressed some optimism that bipartisan support might be forthcoming to tighten restrictions on the type of high-powered weapons. used by the shooter.
‘I think things have gotten so bad that everyone is getting more rational, at least that’s my hope,’ Biden told reporters before honoring the nation’s dead during Memorial Day remarks at the national cemetery. of Arlington.
“The Second Amendment was never absolute,” Biden said. “You couldn’t buy a gun when the Second Amendment passed. You couldn’t go out and buy a lot of guns.”
A bipartisan group of senators met over the weekend to see if they could reach even a modest compromise on gun safety legislation. Encouraging state “red flag” laws to keep guns away from people with mental health issues and addressing school safety and mental health resources were on the table, said Sen. Chris Murphy, who is leading the effort.
The group will meet again this week within 10 days to reach an agreement.
Nathan Ellgren in Uvalde and Jim Salter in O’Fallon, Missouri, contributed to this report.
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