A plea to celebrate life as Uvalde faces many days of mourning

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UVALDE, Texas — Amerie Jo Garza, 10, a prankster who made the honor roll. Tuesday, 2 p.m.

Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, 10, who excelled in school and learned to sew from YouTube videos. Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Irma Garcia, 48, and Joe Garcia, 50, the parents of Lyliana, Alysandra, Cristian and Jose. Wednesday, 10 a.m.

Jose Manuel Flores Jr., 10, called Josecito and Baby Jose, who collected toy trucks and played Little League. Wednesday, 2 p.m.

A week after a gunman burst into Robb Primary School in Uvalde, funerals began on Tuesday for the 19 young pupils and two teachers killed – as well as the husband of a victim whose fatal heart attack was attributed by those close to her to her overwhelming grief. Until mid-June, the next few days will be filled with services, visitations, rosaries and burials, commemorating each of the victims whose death is the sum of the excruciating loss of a community.

Reverend Eduardo Morales will preside over several funerals, each involving him sitting with relatives and crafting sermons that celebrate young lives cut short. Some days parents bury their children and also mourn their classmates and friends.

“We are not here to celebrate his death,” Sacred Heart Catholic Church pastor Father Morales told mourners who packed the simple church Tuesday for Amerie Jo Garza’s funeral mass, expressing a sentiment he said he would repeat every time. funeral in the next few days, including a Wednesday, another Friday and a next Monday, if not more. “We are here to celebrate his life.”

“Don’t let her death and this tragedy,” he continued, “define who she is.”

Uvalde has already been in mourning for days, with neighbors hugging and lighting candles at public vigils and memorials – gripped by anguish after so many losses and a sense that the attack has altered the trajectory of a whole community.

Now, grief has evolved into something more individualized.

It came with constant reminders of wasted potential: the little coffins, one with a dinosaur on it, another with a Superman logo, a third with pink handles, and a picture of a child doing a TikTok dance.

Many memories recognized young lives with great ambitions: Maite Rodriguez wanted to go to the Texas A&M University campus in Corpus Christi and study to become a marine biologist. Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, known as Lexi, told her parents she wanted to be a lawyer.

The consequences of mass violence have a sort of dark rhythm, which plays out across the country after deadly attacks. In Texas alone, mass shootings have taken place in recent years at a church in Sutherland Springs, a small town across from San Antonio; a Walmart in El Paso; and a high school in Santa Fe, near Houston.

Already, there has been a change in Uvalde, a town of 15,000 in the brushy, windswept stretch west of San Antonio.

Shortly after the shooting, with Uvalde still reeling, the city was packed with law enforcement, elected officials and the media, with reporters representing news outlets around the world.

Attention has brought its own hassles and difficulties. But it also brought an outpouring of support. An online fundraiser for the children of Irma Garcia, a teacher killed in the shooting, and her husband has raised more than $2.7 million, far exceeding the original goal of $10,000.

For some, the advice was also reassuring in less tangible ways.

“It’s a small town – it’s a town, but it’s small,” Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio said of Uvalde, which is part of his diocese. He said it was a source of comfort for residents to know that people far from Uvalde knew the plight of their community and had sympathy for them. “The eyes of the world were on their home,” he added.

The community is still grappling with the immediate consequences: Gov. Greg Abbott, who was among the officials to visit, said on Tuesday he had issued a disaster declaration for Uvalde, which mobilizes more state and local resources for the town .

And as state law enforcement officials continued their investigation into why officers delayed entry to a classroom where the shooter was locked up with students, they said on Tuesday that the School District Police Department Chief Pete Arredondo had not made himself available for a follow-up interview by investigators.

Yet a week after filming, outside attention began to dwindle. Memorials have become less crowded. In the streets, there are fewer journalists, cameras and vehicles displaying media logos.

Some are already contemplating the arduous road ahead, unsure what kind of support Uvalde will ultimately need and for how long, especially the children now growing up in the shadow of the devastation.

Pupils are just starting their summer vacation, but parents are already thinking about how to help their children overcome their grief during the summer months and feel safe and ready to return to school in the summer. ‘fall.

But right now, much of Uvalde is grappling with a void that has emerged: the nearly two dozen people who have died.

Sacred Heart, the parish that has been an anchor for the Catholic community in Uvalde for generations, has been a gathering place since the attack, holding special masses and vigils, as well as counseling services.

On Tuesday, the church was once again packed as a choir sang a hymn based on St Francis’ prayer – “make me a channel of your peace”. Many attend Amerie’s funeral dressed in shades of lilac and lavender. Others wore work uniforms, stepping away from their jobs to take time to pray and mourn.

His death had compounded a series of losses for a family whose loved ones have died from the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet Father Morales – from Uvalde who returned six years ago to lead Sacred Heart – encouraged those who mourned her to make a choice, however difficult: to celebrate her life. Take heart that his spirit and his legacy will live on. “Allow him to be with us,” he said.

Amerie was a social girl, her family said. She was a good student, but she loved lunchtimes and recess, when she could spend time with her friends. She also loved to express herself through art. In her obituary, her family wrote, “A protector of her brother and as we now know her classmates.

“You have raised a beautiful, loving and caring little girl,” Father Morales said.

At the end of the mass, he prayed over his coffin.

“In peace, let us take our sister to her resting place,” he said. “May the angels lead you to paradise.”

The choir, accompanied by piano and violin, began to sing, its hymn bringing Amerie to this resting place, his loved ones to navigate their grief, and the priest for many more days pleading with the weary mourners to celebrate those who had been taken away from them.

“If you cross the raging waters of the sea, you will not drown,” sang the choir as the crowd left the church. Many mourners had tears in their eyes.

“If you walk through the burning flames, you won’t get hurt,” the singers continued. “And if you stand before the power of hell and death is on your side, know that I am with you through it all.”

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