Rosaries, bouquets and small caskets: Uvalde begins to bury his dead

Placeholder while loading article actions

UVALDE, Texas – The family of a 10-year-old shooting victim held a prayer circle in the yard here on Monday as temperatures rose and mourners arrived.

Jayce Luevanos’ loved ones didn’t know what to do anymore, boy uncle said in a brief interview. “With the funeral getting closer and closer, it’s getting harder and harder,” the uncle said, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of respect for his nephew’s memory.

American flags fluttered in the hot wind on Monday as Memorial Day dawned in Uvalde, a day of mourning and remembrance that has had an unfathomable layer of grief this year because this close-knit town of 15,000 near the border Mexican was beginning to bury its dead – the 19 students and two teachers gunned down at Robb Elementary School last Tuesday.

The early days of anger and grief at the senseless tragedy, compounded by catastrophic events mistakes made by law enforcement, gave way to the difficult but necessary period of mourning – an incessant cycle of visitations, rosaries, funerals and receptions which began on Monday and will run until June 16.

Priests who last week comforted still-bleeding children and pastors who prayed with anxious parents on Monday turned to the familiar rituals surrounding Christian burials. Volunteers flew in and drove in from all over Texas and across the country to help with various aspects of the funeral. Food truck operators handed out food and water. Florists fashioned coffin “sprays”. The head of the Texas Funeral Directors Association brought in an additional funeral coach and other funeral directors — experts in the art of facial reconstruction — to help.

Uvalde’s shooting “stirred something” in him. So he gave up his weapon.

As a priest of the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart – the only Catholic church in Uvalde – Father Eduardo Morales was preparing for a schedule of unrelenting grief, a kind of schedule that can only follow a mass event like the one that shook the nation here last Tuesday.

Morales, known as “Father Eddy,” will hold funeral after funeral for the victims virtually every day starting Tuesday – sometimes two in a day, around a dozen in all.

“Everyone here knows someone who was killed,” he told the church after Saturday mass. “There are going to be a lot of tears and a lot of sadness…but as we continue to celebrate their lives, they will turn into tears of joy.”

Before returning to his hometown to lead Sacred Heart six years ago, Morales buried parishioners he knew, he said. But never like this.

“I bury parishioners, but these are people I’ve known all my life – and that’s what makes it difficult,” he said.

Morales finds himself constantly searching for the right words to say. In conversations he’s had since last week’s massacre, and in words he spoke at Mass, Morales said he tried to emphasize one thing: “It’s okay to be angry,” he repeated. “But this anger cannot turn into hatred.”

On Monday, Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home — the low-slung white morgue a short walk from Robb Elementary that had housed injured students fleeing the shooter — reopened for an afternoon visitation for Amerie Jo Garza, 10. Garza was a honor student and remembers a creative child who hugged her 3-year-old brother every day on the way to school. This little boy is now crying, confused by the absence of his big sister, his family said.

Outside the funeral home, however, tempers flared as mourners attempted to negotiate with an international media group. A journalist tried unsuccessfully to enter the building, and police officers – some of the many police departments outside Uvalde who descended on the town to help local authorities – pushed the journalists back into the street. Authorities ordered families of some victims not to speak to the media; the town’s other local funeral home, Rushing-Estes-Knowles Mortuary, posted a note on its website that read, “We respectfully request NO reporters or photographers in the field.”

A visit for 10-year-old Maite Rodriguez, an honor student who dreamed of becoming a marine biologist, also took place on Monday.

On Monday, police cleared the road around Robb Elementary for the first time since the murders. A steady stream of mourners, onlookers and onlookers – most of them from out of town – came to mourn or view and photograph the impromptu memorial that popped up around the elementary school sign, where white crosses mark the names of the dead. The area was lined with thousands of bouquets and toys, and on Monday people were bringing in even more. A woman arrived with a plastic tote full of stuffed animals. Groups of worshipers prayed in English and Spanish, a man carrying a large wooden cross.

What school shootings do to the children who survive them, from Sandy Hook to Uvalde

The grandmother of one survivor cried as she described how she and others just wanted to move on and get away even for a day from the constant reminders of the horror of the past week: the media, strangers well-intentioned, the families of the victims.

“It’s just too much for a little kid to go through,” Betty Fraire said, tears streaming down her face, referring to her 9-year-old grandson. “We adults too, we try to stay strong, for them, for our community, but it’s too much.”

His grandson, Jaydien – who is only identified by his first name as he is a minor – said he survived the attack by hiding under a table. Now Jaydien, who has a mischievous smile and loved going to school and his math lessons, doesn’t want to go to school anymore. He also doesn’t want to talk to the other children who survived.

When he hears a loud bang, he becomes anxious and scared and has not been able to sleep well, his grandmother said.

“We just try to keep him busy and distracted, so he forgets the horror and becomes a happy kid again,” Fraire said.

At Country Gardens & Seed, three San Antonio volunteers who had traveled 80 miles to help store owner Yolanda Moreno were busy shaping a flower arrangements in white arched baskets for funerals. They were out of breath, but on the ground around them were buckets of thousands of donated flowers – fragrant lilies, roses and carnations, blue delphiniums, stalked alliums and green bells of Ireland. Moreno’s husband, Johnny, 64, came in and out several times to pick up bouquets for the delivery van.

Moreno, 62, showed off a heart-shaped arrangement for Rodriguez, the aspiring marine biologist, sent by a florist elsewhere in Texas, with a small fishnet and little sea urchins nestled among the flowers – a tribute to the career dream the 10-year-old will never achieve again.

All funeral arrangements will be free, Moreno said, and she donates cash to the local library to purchase books in the names of deceased students.

“It’s for the little boy, right?” asked volunteer Amanda Melton, 37, an event planner in San Antonio, pointing to one of the arrangements. “And what do you want it to say on the card?”

“Made with love,” Moreno said.

As the timeline emerges, the police come under fire for their response to the school massacre

Early Monday morning, a carpenter named Robert Ramirez, 47, made his daily pilgrimage to his father’s grave in the town of Uvalde cemetery, where the graves were dotted with tiny American flags. Ramirez, who had his carpenter’s pencil hidden behind one ear, had brought his father two Miller Lite beers and placed them on his grave in honor of the day. The beers were still cold.

Ramirez said many people in Uvalde are disappointed and angry at the law enforcement response to the shooting, and that townspeople want the officers who failed to arrest him removed. of their functions.

“They gave the shooter 90 minutes to do whatever he wanted, and he killed all these little boys and girls,” Ramirez said. “It was so sad. They were just getting ready for summer. Two days.”

While visiting his father, Ramirez said he must have thought of all that dirt and grass in the back section of the cemetery, where many burials will likely take place in the coming days. They should bury all the victims there, he said, and build a large memorial in their name.

“It’s the perfect space,” he said, pointing to the patchy stretch of grass. “They all died together; they should be together.

Paulina Villegas in Uvalde contributed to this report.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: