Even as families in Uvalde, Texas, began making funeral arrangements for their murdered children, on what should have been a joyous last day of school before summer vacation, many details surrounding the hour of terror inside Robb Elementary School remained murky on Thursday, with criticism beginning to emerge of the police response.
Parents of students who were trapped inside furiously urged the police to storm the school sooner, according to a witness account. “They were just angry, especially the dads,” said Derek Sotelo, 26, who heard gunfire from his tire shop nearby and followed it to the school. “We were wondering, ‘What the heck is going on? Are they going in?’ The dads were saying, ‘Give me the vest, I’ll go in there!’”
The first report of a gunman approaching the school came around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday. By the time the 18-year-old high school dropout had been killed just after 1 p.m., he had shot dead 19 students and two teachers.
Questions remained about how at least one armed security guard at the school — and the scores of law enforcement officers who arrived in response to reports of the shooting — had handled the gunman, who managed to remain inside a pair of adjoining classrooms for more than an hour, according to State Police officials citing preliminary reports on the response.
Frustrated onlookers urged police officers to charge into the building in the harrowing minutes after the gunman was seen entering, The Associated Press reported on Thursday, with one nearby woman shouting, “Go in there! Go in there!” and some bystanders discussing charging in themselves.
The gunman, identified by authorities as Salvador Ramos, shot his grandmother in the face on Tuesday morning, officials said, before heading for the school less than a mile away and crashing his truck. An armed school security officer confronted him outside the school, but did not stop him. There are conflicting reports of whether they exchanged gunfire.
Two local police officers then attempted to stop him inside the school and were shot, the State Police officials said.
The gunman, who remained confined to one area of the school, was killed by a team of specialized tactical officers from the Border Patrol shortly after 1 p.m., the authorities said. It was not clear whether a faster confrontation could have saved any of the 19 children and two teachers who were killed at the school.
State Police said they have so far found no apparent motive or any warning signs — a history of mental illness or a criminal record — that would have predicted that Mr. Ramos would commit such atrocities. In the week before the shooting, just days after turning 18, he purchased two AR-style rifles and up to 375 rounds of ammunition, according to officials.
In other developments:
By Wednesday, all of the victims had been identified by officials, who had yet to release their names. In Uvalde, a city of about 16,000, the tragedy seemed to spare almost no one. Some families were doubly grieving. “I lost two,” George Rodriguez, 72, told a friend between sobs Wednesday afternoon. “My grandson and a niece. I lost two.”
President Biden said he would visit the city, a ranching town 60 miles from the border with Mexico, in the coming days to console the distraught residents.
Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who signed a Texas law last year ending the requirement for a license to carry handguns in the state, pointed the blame at the area’s lack of mental health care, even though the suspect had no record of problems. Mr. Abbott said, “anybody who shoots somebody else has a mental health challenge.”
Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat and former Texas representative who is running for governor, interrupted Mr. Abbott’s news conference to accuse Republicans of “doing nothing” to address gun violence, yelling that the killings were a “totally predictable” outcome of lax gun laws.
May 26, 2022, 11:52 a.m. ET
May 26, 2022, 11:52 a.m. ETMay 26, 2022, 11:52 a.m. ET
Javier Cazares, whose 9-year-old daughter was killed in the massacre, said that officials have been misrepresenting the response of law enforcement officials during the shooting at Robb Elementary. “They said they rushed in and all that, we didn’t see that,” said Mr. Cazares, 43, who was outside the school during the attack and heard gunshots. Mr. Cazares wanted to rush in himself to help his daughter, Jacklyn. He offered to help the officers, saying he would carry his little girl himself, but they told him to let them do their work. “There were plenty of men out there armed to the teeth that could have gone in faster. This could have been over in a couple minutes.”
Most if not all of the 19 children and two adults who were killed in the Robb Elementary school were believed to have died during the first minutes of a gunman arriving at the school on Tuesday, according to a preliminary timeline compiled by Texas law enforcement officials and described by a person familiar with the investigation.
The gunman did not exchange fire with a Uvalde school district police officer outside the school, according to the timeline. That police officer was not stationed at the school, but was instead in a car nearby and rushed to the scene after the first calls came in to 911 of a gunman near the school at around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday.
As the officer arrived at the school, the gunman was already approaching, began firing at the school and entered, according to the timeline. Within minutes, other law enforcement had arrived at the school, according to the timeline. Two members of the Uvalde police department entered the school.
The gunman, at that point, had gone inside a pair of adjoining classrooms and was shooting, according to the timeline. The two officers attempted to enter the classroom and were shot. At that point, they fell back as the shooting continued inside the classroom, according to the timeline.
He continued shooting through the wall and door at law enforcement who were arriving outside the classroom. It was during those minutes, law enforcement officials believe, that the gunman, identified as Salvador Ramos, killed most if not all of the children inside adjoining classrooms. There was sporadic gunfire from the suspect until a tactical team arrived and killed him around 1 p.m., according the timeline.
May 26, 2022, 11:46 a.m. ET
May 26, 2022, 11:46 a.m. ETMay 26, 2022, 11:46 a.m. ET
J. David Goodman
New details of the timeline of the shooting are set to emerge at a news conference this afternoon, but a Texas law enforcement official said that a preliminary timeline of events showed that two police officers confronted the gunman shortly after he entered the classroom where all of the children were killed, and were shot themselves. They withdrew and a tactical team was assembled to re-enter later. All of the children were killed in the first few minutes the gunman was in the building, the official said, citing the preliminary timeline.
May 26, 2022, 11:30 a.m. ET
May 26, 2022, 11:30 a.m. ETMay 26, 2022, 11:30 a.m. ET
UVALDE, Texas — Parents of students who were trapped inside Robb Elementary School furiously argued with police for not storming the school sooner, according to an interview with a witness who was there on the day of the shooting.
And now many people in the town wonder: Were the children already dead, or could they have been saved if police had stormed the building earlier.
“They were just angry,” said Derek Sotelo, 26. “We were wondering, ‘What the heck is going on? Are they going in?’ The dads were saying, ‘Give me the vest, I’ll go in there!’”
Mr. Sotelo heard gunfire about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday morning from outside his tire shop. He followed the sounds to nearby Robb Elementary, only a few blocks away. He did not have children at the school, Mr. Sotelo said, but wanted to see what was going on.
He got to the parking lot of a funeral home right near the school to find a worker from the funeral home screaming that a gunman was on the loose. Word spread by phone and Facebook, and it wasn’t long before it seemed the whole town had gathered, Mr. Sotelo said. There must have been 300 people, he said.
Mr. Sotelo acknowledges that with the fear and adrenaline, it was hard to mark the passage of time.
“I can’t tell you how long it lasted. It felt like a half hour,” he said. “It felt like forever.” He estimates that the delay was at least 30 minutes, but admits that he could be wrong. He also stressed that he had a clear view of the school’s rear entrance, but could not see if police were entering through the front.
If they did wait to storm the school, he wonders: “Is that protocol?”
“Everybody was like, ‘what the heck is the SWAT team doing?’” he said. “‘If you’re not going to do nothing, I don’t know what you’re doing here.’” He said police responded by telling people to get back.
“They would say, ‘Get back! Get back! Active shooter,’” Mr. Sotelo said. “They were putting up caution tape, and people were cutting the tape.”
After a little while, police started taking children out. He saw a little girl covered in blood and a woman carried out in a stretcher. The images haunted his sleep.
Some of the people whom he greeted that morning lost their children in the massacre.
“I said hi to people, and it ended up people who lost their kids,” he said.
May 26, 2022, 11:21 a.m. ET
May 26, 2022, 11:21 a.m. ETMay 26, 2022, 11:21 a.m. ET
Parents of students who were trapped inside Robb Elementary during the gunman’s rampage furiously urged police to storm the school sooner, according to a witness account. “They were just angry, especially the dads,” said Derek Sotelo, 26, who heard gunfire from his tire shop nearby and followed it to the school. “We were wondering, ‘What the heck is going on? Are they going in?’ The dads were saying, ‘Give me the vest, I’ll go in there!’”
May 26, 2022, 10:27 a.m. ET
May 26, 2022, 10:27 a.m. ETMay 26, 2022, 10:27 a.m. ET
In a searing speech from the Senate floor, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, condemned Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, calling him “an absolute fraud” and noting that he is scheduled to speak to the N.R.A. convention convening in Houston on Friday. “He asked people to put their agendas aside and think about someone other than themselves," said Mr. Schumer, the majority leader, adding, "Governor Abbott, will you ask your MAGA buddies and your NRA pals to put aside their agendas and think of someone other than themselves?”
May 26, 2022, 10:14 a.m. ET
May 26, 2022, 10:14 a.m. ETMay 26, 2022, 10:14 a.m. ET
The Uvalde school district had its own police department with six officers, according to its website. At least one of them confronted the gunman but was unable to prevent him from getting into the school, according to official reports. Additional school safety measures included regular lockdown and emergency drills for students and staff, and “perimeter fencing” at Robb Elementary, intended to restrict access to the campus. Teachers had been directed to work with classroom doors locked.
WASHINGTON — Senator Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said on Thursday that he would support Steven Dettelbach, President Biden’s nominee to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, after opposing his first failed pick for the job.
Last September, Mr. King informed Mr. Biden he would oppose his first nominee, David Chipman, a fiery former A.T.F. agent and an outspoken proponent of gun control, over concerns about his temperament and after being pressured by local gun shop owners worried he would crack down on legal gun sales.
With Republicans expected to oppose him unanimously, Mr. Dettelbach cannot afford a single Democratic defection in an evenly divided Senate.
Mr. King made his decision after Mr. Dettelbach offered somber and measured testimony at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, a session dominated by the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, a day earlier that killed 19 schoolchildren and two teachers.
“The A.T.F. director is a critical leader in public safety — but since the role became a Senate-confirmed position in 2006, the bureau has only had one permanent director, hindering its vital work,” Mr. King said in a statement obtained by The New York Times.
“This ongoing uncertainty cannot continue — the A.T.F. needs a serious, nonpartisan, experienced leader who can build strong relationships with stakeholders across the agency’s jurisdiction,” Mr. King wrote.
He added that he believed Mr. Dettelbach would “work to strike the important balance that this position requires: reducing gun violence while respecting the Second Amendment and the rights of law-abiding gun owners.”
Installing a new A.T.F. director is one of the few consequential moves Mr. Biden’s administration can still make. The two major policy changes Mr. Biden espoused during the 2020 campaign — reviving an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and imposing universal background checks on gun buyers — have been blocked by Senate Republicans.
In the hours after Mr. Dettelbach’s testimony, two of the three members of the Democratic caucus who were seen as undecided, Jon Tester of Montana and Mr. King of Maine, praised his restrained appearance before the committee. Mr. King had suggested he was more inclined to support him, according to Democratic aides.
It is still unclear where the remaining Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, stands. But White House officials have said they are cautiously optimistic all three will support Mr. Dettelbach.
The committee has not yet set a date for a vote on Mr. Dettelbach, but White House officials are pushing for a quick confirmation.
May 26, 2022, 6:56 a.m. ET
May 26, 2022, 6:56 a.m. ETMay 26, 2022, 6:56 a.m. ET
When Eulalio Diaz began hearing the roaring sound of nonstop ambulances Tuesday afternoon, he sensed something had gone terribly awry in Uvalde, a town of about 16,000 where most people know their neighbors by name.
Mr. Diaz is one of the town’s justices of the peace, assuming some of the duties of a coroner, including identifying the dead. He was on duty that day and had never seen so much carnage: The last recorded murder in Uvalde took place at least a year ago, he said.
By the time he arrived at Robb Elementary School, after 2:30 p.m., the authorities had descended on the small-town school, which teaches second, third and fourth graders.
Moments later, he was informed of the harrowing reality: A gunman had stormed into the school and fired several rounds at defenseless children. He requested aid from the medical examiner in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio.
Some time after 5 p.m., he said, Mr. Diaz and two representatives from the big city’s coroner’s office walked into the crime scene. Even though he had been told there were at least 16 or 17 fatalities, he was not prepared for what he witnessed.
“My heart dropped,” he said. “I knew there were going to be children. I know their parents. I know their grandparents.
“It’s a scene that you never want to see, that you never imagined. It stays in your mind. My heart drops for them and for their families immediately.”
He and his colleagues tried to remain calm and proceeded with the painful task of identifying the small victims. Mr. Diaz, a father of two children in eighth and twelfth grades, said he worked hard to release the victims as soon as possible to area funeral homes so that their loved ones could see them again: nine on Wednesday afternoon and the remaining on Thursday or in the next few days, he said.
“It’s a very tough job,” he said. “It’s a small community. We all know each other. It’s heart-wrenching.”
Mr. Diaz, a lifelong Uvalde resident, said he later learned he had known some of the victims, including one of the town’s beloved teachers, Irma Garcia, who he said was a high school classmate.
“I don’t want to ever see it happening again anywhere else right now,” he said. “I know everyone, their parents, their grandparents. I’ve been trying to hold it together.”
May 26, 2022, 12:54 a.m. ET
May 26, 2022, 12:54 a.m. ETMay 26, 2022, 12:54 a.m. ET
John Martinez got increasingly nervous as he drove around Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday afternoon with his mother and father in search of his aunt Irma Garcia. He had seen the alerts of a shooting at Robb Elementary School, where she taught fourth grade.
Nothing in the civic center.
Nothing in the hospital.
So Mr. Martinez, 21, kept driving, trying to hold out hope that Tia Garcia, as he referred to his aunt in Spanish, was alive. Eventually he heard his mother yell at his father, a retired Border Patrol officer who had been receiving updates from the Sheriff’s Office.
“Just tell me, is she coming home?” Mr. Martinez recalled his mother, Claudia Martinez, asking. “Tell me right now.”
“My dad said, ‘She won’t be coming home,’” Mr. Martinez recalled. “I mean, I almost had to pull over. Really, it was so traumatic.”
Then came the official word from the authorities. His aunt, a teacher of more than two decades and a mother of four, had been killed in the country’s deadliest school shooting in a decade. Nineteen students and two teachers, including Ms. Garcia, were dead.
Mr. Martinez said the authorities had told his father, Carlos Martinez, that when officers entered the classroom where the massacre occurred, they had “found her body there, embracing children in her arms pretty much until her last breath.”
His family gathered on Tuesday evening in Ms. Garcia’s home, processing the news together. A sister of Ms. Garcia’s screamed “Irma” over and over, begging God to bring her back.
“Everybody was in shambles,” John Martinez said.
On Wednesday, he was trying to remember his favorite memories of her: How she would crack jokes at family gatherings, sing her favorite classic rock tunes and help him with homework. She loved barbecue and country cruises to Concan along the Frio River.
Ms. Garcia had been like a “second mom” to both Mr. Martinez and her students, he said. The family was confident she had tried her best to save them in those final moments.
“I can’t believe it,” he said. “It feels like a nightmare.”
Audrey Garcia, 48, whose daughter Gabby was once a student of Eva Mireles, recalled Ms. Mireles on Wednesday as a transformational teacher in her child’s life.
Gabby is 23 years old now, with a high school diploma. Ms. Mireles had been Gabby’s third grade teacher. It was only a couple of years earlier, she said, that schools in the Uvalde area had begun integrating children with developmental disabilities into regular classrooms. Gabby was one of the first students to be mixed in with a nondisabled population. “It was new for teachers in that area,” Ms. Garcia said.
Ms. Mireles, she said, threw herself into the work. “She used every teaching method she knew to help Gabby reach her highest potential,” she said. “She never saw that potential as lower than anyone else’s in her classroom. She made sure Gabby was included. She was just above and beyond as far as teachers go.”
The mother and teacher stayed in close touch over the course of that third-grade year, and their bond continued through the subsequent years, even as Gabby and Ms. Garcia moved to San Antonio, where they now live. Ms. Garcia said that Ms. Mireles would sometimes reach out at Christmastime; Gabby had given her a Christmas tree ornament, and when Ms. Mireles took it out to hang it up she would be reminded of Gabby and reach out to ask about her former student. “I want you to know I treasure it so much,” she would say of the ornament.
Ms. Garcia watched the news unfold this week in stunned disbelief. She did not hold the news back from Gabby. And she said she knew that her daughter understood what had happened. At one point, Ms. Garcia said, Gabby said that she loved Ms. Mireles for having taken care of her. And Gabby said she hoped that Ms. Mireles had not felt too much pain.
May 25, 2022, 8:25 p.m. ET
May 25, 2022, 8:25 p.m. ETMay 25, 2022, 8:25 p.m. ET
UVALDE, Texas — Xavier Lopez, 10, made the honor roll on the day he was killed.
He was eager to share the news with his three brothers, but Xavier’s grandparents said he decided to stay at Robb Elementary School following an end-of-year ceremony to watch a movie and eat popcorn with another family he cherished: his fourth-grade classmates.
Xavier’s classroom, where a nightmare erupted when a gunman burst in and killed 19 children and two teachers, reflected the close-knit character of Uvalde, a Mexican American ranching town in southern Texas where lives are braided together by generations of friendships and marriage.
There was Xavier and his elementary-school sweetheart, who was also killed in the shooting. There were cousins Jackie Cazares, who had her First Communion two weeks ago, and Annabelle Rodriguez, an honor-roll student. There was Amerie Jo Garza, a grinning 10-year-old whose father said she “talked to everybody” at recess and lunch.
On Wednesday, their deaths united Uvalde in anguish as families began to grapple with the toll of the deadliest school massacre since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., 10 years ago.
“Why? Why him? Why the kids?” Leonard Sandoval, 54, Xavier’s grandfather, said as he stood outside the family’s home, holding one of Xavier’s younger brothers by his side as relatives and friends trickled up the driveway to drop off bottled water and fried chicken.
They remembered Xavier as an exuberant baseball and soccer player who jumped at the chance to help his father do landscaping work or dance around on TikTok videos with his siblings and cousins.
Everyone in Uvalde, a town of about 15,200 about 60 miles from the country’s southern border, seemed to know one of the children who had been gunned down. Or had gone to high school with one of the victims’ parents or grandparents. Or had lost several family members.
“I lost two,” George Rodriguez, 72, said in between sobs as he climbed out of his Domino’s pizza delivery truck to greet a friend on Wednesday afternoon. “My grandson and a niece. I lost two.”
“I know, I know,” Mr. Rodriguez’s friend, Joe Costilla, replied. “We lost our cousin too.”
The scene replayed itself again and again across the leafy neighborhoods of modest homes surrounding the elementary school where about 90 percent of the 500 students are Hispanic.
Cousins, aunts and uncles pulled up in pickup trucks. Crying friends shared long hugs on families’ front lawns. Mourners drove from house to house and made phone call after phone call, stitching together an unofficial roster of the dead before law enforcement officials had publicly identified the victims.
“If you drive through town, you can already feel it’s different,” said Liza Cazares, whose husband lost two 10-year-old cousins in the attack. “Those were 21 lives that we can’t get back.”
Mr. Rodriguez said he had attended counseling at the civic center early on Wednesday, but it offered him little reprieve from the pain. Instead, he said he asked his supervisor at Domino’s if he could pick up a shift.
“I just could not stay home and think about what happened all day,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “I had to work and try to distract my mind.”
He pulled a photo from his wallet showing 10-year-old Jose Flores — “my little Josécito” — whom Mr. Rodriguez said he had raised as a grandson. The boy wore a rose-colored T-shirt saying, “Tough guys wear pink.” Mr. Rodriguez broke down crying.
Mr. Costilla said he was a cousin by marriage of Eva Mireles, a beloved teacher at Robb Elementary who befriended children and adults with the same ease. She loved running marathons and teaching her fourth graders, having spent the last 17 years as a teacher, Mr. Costilla said. She had a daughter in her 20s and three dogs.
“She was really close to us,” Mr. Costilla said. They spent many weekends together barbecuing in his backyard, and would have fired up the grill again this upcoming Memorial Day weekend.
“But now she’s gone,” Mr. Costilla said.
Until this week, Uvalde was perhaps best known as the hometown of the actor Matthew McConaughey and John Nance Garner, a vice president under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1970, it became a center of anti-discrimination protests after Hispanic high school students staged weeks of walkouts.
San Juanita Hernandez, 25, a fifth-generation resident, said her teachers often invoked Uvalde’s history and famous names as they urged her and other students to do great things.
“Any homeroom teacher, football coach, would say, ‘Which one of you is going to bring us fame and put us on the map?’” Ms. Hernandez said.
Despite the proximity to the border and the presence of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection station in Uvalde, residents and city officials said most people were born in the area and had deep ties to the region’s ranching history. In the neighborhood around Robb Elementary, more than 40 percent of residents have lived in the same house for at least 30 years, according to census data.
The shared loss reverberating across Uvalde drew people to a 10 a.m. Mass on Wednesday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. As they headed into the building, Rebecca and Luis Manuel Acosta said the shooting had taken a crushing toll on a community where it seemed there was no more than a few degrees of separation among families.
“I feel so afraid,” Ms. Acosta, 71, said. “I feel so much for those mothers.”
The close connections extended to the 18-year-old gunman, who the authorities say carried out the massacre before he was fatally shot by a Border Patrol agent. Ronnie Garza, a county commissioner, said he had known the suspect’s grandmother, who was wounded before the shooting spree at the school. He said one of his grandchildren had also known the suspect, who attended Uvalde High School.
“We are a community of faith, blue collar, agriculture workers,” Mr. Garza said.
As in much of Texas, gun ownership is sown deeply into Uvalde’s culture and government. Uvalde County, which includes the city, has elected conservative Democrats, but also twice voted for former President Donald J. Trump. The City Council passed a measure in October allowing city workers to bring a properly registered gun to work with them, and the Uvalde Police Department has handed out free gun locks to try to prevent accidental shootings, according to The Uvalde Leader-News.
Some residents said it was inappropriate to debate the nation’s gun policies when families were still waiting to bury their children. Others said they were infuriated by the slaughter of 19 young children after other recent mass shootings in Texas, including at a church in Sutherland Springs in 2017 and a high school in Santa Fe in 2018.
“All everybody wants to say is we’ll pray for you and we’re sorry for your loss, but that’s not good enough anymore,” said Rogelio M. Muñoz, who served on the City Council for 14 years. “Something needs to change. But what infuriates me is I know nothing is going to happen. Nobody’s going to do a damned thing about it.”
In Alfred Garza III’s darkened living room, a clutch of Mr. Garza’s friends from high school sat talking and trading memories as Mr. Garza grieved his daughter, Amerie Jo.
Mr. Garza, who works at a used car dealership in Uvalde, said he was on a lunch break on Tuesday when Amerie Jo’s mother told him she could not get their daughter out of the school because it was on lockdown.
“I just went straight over there and found the chaos,” he recalled, adding that he waited for hours before learning from the Texas Rangers that Amerie Jo had been killed. When he got home, he started to go through her pictures.
“That’s when I kind of had the release,” he said. “I started crying and started mourning.”
Reporting was contributed by Richard Fausset, Robert Gebeloff, David Montgomery, Christina Morales, Campbell Robertson, Jazmine Ulloa and John Yoon.
May 25, 2022, 7:21 p.m. ET
May 25, 2022, 7:21 p.m. ETMay 25, 2022, 7:21 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON — Just shy of a decade after the Senate’s failure to respond to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Democrats are again trying to transform outrage over the gun deaths of children into action by Congress to curb gun violence in America.
But with the Republican position more intractable than ever, calls for negotiations to find some response to the recent horrors in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y., left few lawmakers with much hope that Congress would produce anything meaningful.
“Please, please, please, damn it, put yourselves in the shoes of these parents for once,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, pleaded with his Republican colleagues, as he made the case for at least expanding background checks on gun purchasers.
Polls show that the proposal has support from as many as 90 percent of Americans, including many G.O.P. voters, but Republicans have effectively blocked action on it for the better part of a decade. Their stance reflects the potency of the issue of gun rights for the Republican base voters, whose zeal for the 2nd Amendment means that any G.O.P. lawmaker who embraces even the most modest form of gun control runs the risk of a primary challenge that could cost him his job.
Still, after Mr. Schumer initially cleared the way for a quick vote to put Republicans on the spot on background checks, he pulled back on Wednesday and said there was no point in doing so, given that their opposition was already “crystal clear.” Instead, he said he would try to find a consensus proposal that could draw in enough Republicans to break the inevitable filibuster.
“The plan is to work hard at a compromise for the next 10 days,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, who has led the Democratic charge for gun safety legislation since Sandy Hook, said on Twitter on Tuesday. “Hopefully we succeed and the Senate can vote on a bipartisan bill that saves lives. But if we can’t find common ground, then we are going to take a vote on gun violence. The Senate will not ignore this crisis.”
On Thursday, the Senate will face the first test, moving to take up legislation approved by the House last week after the racist mass shooting in Buffalo, to bolster federal resources to prevent domestic terrorism. Mr. Schumer said if Republicans do not filibuster the procedural motion just to take up the measure, he will open the bill up to amendments from both parties to address gun violence.
There was little sign that a consensus was in the offing.
Republicans proposed the now-familiar litany of alternative responses — tighter “red flag” laws to make it easier for law enforcement to confiscate weapons from the mentally ill, more aggressive mental health interventions, and more armed guards at schools — many of which Democrats regard as woefully inadequate.
And Democrats questioned whether they could find any common ground with Republicans on more substantial gun violence measures, after previous proposals ultimately went nowhere.
“We’ve been burned so many times before” when it came to negotiating a bipartisan compromise, Mr. Schumer said.
The echoes between the Newtown, Conn., mass shooting at Sandy Hook in December 2012, which left 20 children and six adults dead, and the Uvalde, Texas, violence, which killed at least 19 children and two teachers, are painful. In both cases, a loner from the community attacked an elementary school, overpowering children and adults with an arsenal.
After Newtown, then-Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was charged with persuading a bipartisan coalition of at least 60 senators to act, and break a threatened filibuster by Republicans. On Tuesday night, a seemingly anguished President Biden made the case for “common sense gun laws,” including an assault weapons ban, and declared, “It’s time to turn this pain into action.”
But in remarks on Wednesday, Mr. Biden, too, appeared to hang back rather than call for specific action by Congress, referring vaguely to the need to show “backbone” and challenge the powerful gun lobby.
Then, as now, bipartisan legislation existed, written by Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, to impose universal criminal background checks for gun purchasers at gun shows and in internet sales. Then, as now, the barrier was the Senate’s requirement of 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster.
But in the intervening years, the partisan lines between Republican and Democrat have only hardened, not only on gun rights but on the much broader question of how to balance individual liberty against collective responsibility. On gun control, climate change, taxation and pandemic safety mandates, Republicans have seemingly decided individual rights trump a collective, societal response, regardless of the cost.
“Maybe it’s a personal responsibility not to shoot people with guns,” said Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, “and maybe people who don’t live up to that responsibility ought to be in prison for a very, very long time — like forever.”
Beyond elective office, some Republicans seemed to have had enough. Bill Frist, a former Tennessee senator who served as majority leader from 2003 to 2007, wrote on Twitter: “I can’t imagine this is what the Founding Fathers hoped for or intended. We can find ways to preserve the intent of the Second Amendment while also safeguarding the lives of our children.”
Such sentiments were hard to find among elected Republicans.
Mr. Schumer framed his call for negotiations as strategic. A quick vote on House-passed legislation to strengthen background checks would all but certainly be filibustered. Republicans would complain about wasting time with political show votes. Democrats would castigate Republicans for their opposition. Nothing would be accomplished, and the Senate would move on.
Negotiations, at least, could keep gun safety a live issue for a while.
“When things like this happen, I think it awakens sensibilities to the bigger picture — I will not say greater good, but the greater collective response,” Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia, said of the Uvalde bloodshed. “I think that’s what we’re all probably grappling with right now.”
But it was not clear that much had changed. Mr. Manchin indicated that he was not dropping his opposition to changing the Senate filibuster rules, which would allow Democrats to push through gun control legislation over unified Republican opposition. He insisted that, with good will, a broad compromise could be reached and such a move would be unnecessary.
“If we can’t get 70 or 75 senators that won’t vote to have a common sense protection of your children and grandchildren, what in the world are we here for?” Mr. Manchin demanded. “What’s your purpose for being in the United States Senate? If it’s not at least to protect the children?”
The initial start to talks has begun. Mr. Murphy reached out to Mr. Toomey and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, two of the four Republicans who voted for the bipartisan background check bill co-sponsored by Mr. Manchin in 2013.
“My interest in doing something to improve and expand our background check system remains,” Mr. Toomey told reporters.
The April 2013 vote for universal background checks garnered 54 votes. But eight of the “yes” votes for the bill have been replaced over the past decade by the potential votes of conservative Republicans.
On the other hand, five of the 2013 “no” votes have been replaced by Democrats — two in Georgia, one in New Hampshire, one in Arizona and one in Nevada.
But with a 60-vote threshold to clear in the Senate, the odds were still long. There was little indication that the murdered children of Uvalde, Texas, would shake the near-unanimous opposition to any measure limiting access to guns.
Asked what he would tell the parents of the slain children, Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, told reporters, “I’m willing to say that I’m very sorry it happened. But guns are not the problem, OK? People are the problem. That’s where it starts, and we’ve had guns forever. And we’re going to continue to have guns.”
The two Democratic opponents to changing the filibuster rule, Mr. Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, appeared similarly unmoved on that position.
“Despite the fact that there is always heated rhetoric here in D.C., I do think there is an opportunity for us to actually have real conversations and try and do something,” without ditching the filibuster, Ms. Sinema said, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill.
The heated language extended far beyond Washington.
On Wednesday, Beto O’Rourke, the former Democratic representative now challenging Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, confronted the governor and other state officials who oppose gun control measures during their visit to Uvalde, interrupting their news conference to castigate them for “doing nothing” to address gun violence.
At the Capitol, some Republicans rushed to propose solutions that would sidestep the issue of guns altogether. Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, went to the Senate floor to request agreement to take up his bill to establish a federal clearinghouse on school safety best practices. Democrats refused.
As lawmakers talked past each other, it was not clear that anything under discussion would address the recent mass shootings. Republicans have long favored more armed guards, arguing that the only way to stop a bad person with a gun is to ensure more good people have guns. But in Buffalo and Uvalde, the gunmen were confronted by armed guards, who were unable to prevent the slaughter. For all the talk of red flag laws, the killer in Texas did not appear to have any known mental health issues.
Likewise, the most recent mass shootings were apparently perpetrated with guns lawfully purchased, which would not have been subject to additional scrutiny under Democratic background check bills.
Legislation that would have directly impacted the possibility of carnage — bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines — are no longer a main feature in Democrats’ gun safety agenda, although Mr. Biden has mentioned them repeatedly in recent days.
May 25, 2022, 7:01 p.m. ET
May 25, 2022, 7:01 p.m. ETMay 25, 2022, 7:01 p.m. ET
Late Tuesday night, Luz Belliard sat on the edge of her bed in Upper Manhattan in the room she shares with her 9-year-old granddaughter, Victoria, and thought about what to say.
Victoria, a third grader, was sitting on her own bed, which was covered in stuffed animals; she had already seen on the evening news that children her age had been killed in a mass shooting at a school in Texas.
Now, Ms. Belliard had to consider just what she would tell Victoria on their walk to school the next morning: Listen to your teachers. Get down on the floor. Remember the drills you do in class.
“She’s young, but she understands — sometimes too much,” Ms. Belliard said Wednesday outside of Victoria’s school, P.S. 4 Duke Ellington in Washington Heights. “To take your child to school, and then come back to see them dead, it’s not fair. It should not be that way.”
Victoria was standing at her grandmother’s side.
“It’s sad that a lot of children died that way. Those children had a big life ahead of them,” the girl said. “When I hear that kind of stuff it makes me scared.”
In New York and across the country on Wednesday, children, parents and caregivers grappled with the aftermath of the deadly shooting in Uvalde, Tex., where an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two teachers before being shot dead by authorities.
They hugged their children a little tighter, and lingered a little longer at drop-off. They could imagine too easily a gunman bursting into their own child's classroom. And they were once again faced with a haunting question: Is there anywhere in America where schoolchildren can truly be safe?
Some schools around the country took extra precautions in the wake of the shooting. Schools in Texas and Florida banned backpacks from buildings on Wednesday. Officials in states including Georgia and Virginia sent extra officers to schools as a precaution. In New York City, home to the nation’s largest school system, officials are considering ways to tighten security, including locking school doors after children have arrived for the day.
The shooting has cast a somber tone over the final days and weeks of the school year.
“Sometimes I don’t know what to say publicly,” Deborah Gist, the superintendent of schools in Tulsa, Okla., wrote in a Facebook post. “I feel a huge responsibility to use the right words. How, though, do I express the horror, outrage, frustration, disappointment, pain, and fear that an event like the shooting in Uvalde brings? It is a parent’s, a teacher’s, a principal’s, and a superintendent’s worst nightmare.”
In New Jersey on Wednesday morning, Cindy Cucaz, 47, received a message from the principal at her daughter’s high school in Belleville that said the local police department would be at drop off and dismissal.
“Hoping this brings some comfort and relief to students, teachers, administrators and parents,” Ms. Cucaz, who works in medical billing in Manhattan, read from an email sent to the student body.
But Ms. Cucaz said it would do little to relieve her fear from the moment her daughter, Catalina, 17, left for school until she returned home in the afternoon.
“I send her off every day with prayers that she comes back in one piece. Because of how the world is,” Ms. Cucaz said. “I just pray that she comes home.”
In Buffalo, not far from where a racist gunman killed ten Black people at a nearby supermarket less than two weeks ago, the shooting in Texas piled fear atop fear. Patricia Davis paused before she dropped off her 13-year-old son at school on Wednesday morning.
Be careful, she told him. If anything happens, “just fall on the floor.”
As she drove away, she could not help wondering: “Am I going to see my son again?”
“All of it is senseless,” Ms. Davis said. “We’re not safe anywhere, it just makes you want to stay home and lock yourself up and not go out for anything.”
The Texas shooting also rekindled the long-smoldering grief around the devastating shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., a decade ago that left six staff members and 20 children dead, some as young as 6 years old.
Scarlett Lewis, whose six-year-old son, Jesse, was killed in the Sandy Hook shootings, said learning about every mass shooting is “like a punch in the gut every single time” that reactivates the pain and grief.
“For me, it never gets easier,” Ms. Lewis said. “Especially because they’re all preventable. It’s so difficult to lose a child and you always have that pain.”
In New York City, even with some of the strictest gun laws in the country, some parents said they were on high alert after the Texas shooting, the massacre in Buffalo, and a mass shooting on a crowded subway car in April, in which a gunman opened fire during rush hour in a subway car in Brooklyn, shooting 10 people and injuring at least 13 more.
“The feelings are just everywhere at this point,” said Victor Quiñonez, whose 11-year-old daughter attends a school in Brooklyn. “It’s anger, it’s frustration, it’s sadness.”
“It’s just difficult because there’s absolutely a sense of vulnerability for everybody in this country, because you can’t control what people do,” he said.
For some New York City parents, the shooting in Texas added to the emotional toll that gun violence in neighborhoods already takes.
Maria Urena said a shooting outside her 11-year-old son’s school in Maspeth, Queens, prompted a lockdown and an urgent message to parents. She could not reach her son, Chris, and a sickening panic set in.
She later learned that an upperclassman had been shot outside of the school by another teenager. When she hovered over her children that evening, they were the ones comforting her: “Mom, this is an everyday thing,” Ms. Urena recalled her 17-year-old daughter, Ashley, saying.
As the children left for school on Wednesday morning, Ms. Urena said, fingering her gold necklace that says “Chris” and “Ashley” in script, she thought about Texas, and what if that morning’s goodbye was the last.
“Us moms in the morning, you don’t know what is the last thing you told your kid in the morning. You could have gotten upset with your kid — ‘don’t do this, don’t do that,’” she said.
“You don’t know, that could be the last thing you ever told your child.”
New York City students and teachers are trained regularly on how to behave during a mass shooting, but city officials pledged to explore ways to tighten security at city schools.
The city schools chancellor, David C. Banks, said the school system was considering locking building doors after children have arrived for the day.
“The buildings are still open, so if somebody meant to do harm, they would be stopped by a school safety officer,” Mr. Banks said, “but they are already in the building.”
He and Mr. Adams said the city was also exploring technology to better detect guns being secreted into schools.
Parents have also struggled with how to reassure their children that it is safe to return to class.
In Buffalo, José Esquilin, 43, was sitting at his desk when his daughter, Avalynn, 7, came in with her eyes wide after watching news of the Texas school shooting on television in the living room.
“‘Is this here? Did this happen here? They killed the kids? Is this going to happen at my school?’” she asked, according to Mr. Esquilin. He explained to her that there were many schools across the country, and that these shootings were rare.
When she replied that the same thing had already happened in their neighborhood, Mr. Esquilin paused.
“As a parent, like, what can you say? It’s true. It’s hard dealing with this.”
Sarah Maslin Nir, Sarah Mervosh, Corey Kilgannon and Ali Watkins contributed reporting.
May 25, 2022, 6:30 p.m. ET
May 25, 2022, 6:30 p.m. ETMay 25, 2022, 6:30 p.m. ET
UVALDE, Texas — Joe Costilla was mourning the loss of a cousin by marriage, a beloved teacher gunned down during the school shooting, when he spotted a large pickup truck with a logo from the nearby Domino’s Pizza on Wednesday afternoon.
“George,” Mr. Costilla, 40, whispered.
Mr. Costilla extended his arms and allowed George Rodriguez, 72, to fall out of the truck and into his hug.
“I lost two,” Mr. Rodriguez said in between sobs. “My grandson and a niece. I lost two.”
“I know, I know,” his friend responded. “We lost our cousin, too.”
In a town with a population of about 16,122, and where mostly multigenerational Latinos can trace family trees in a single breath, such encounters played out across Uvalde, a close-knit community not far from the Mexico border. Mr. Rodriguez said he had attended counseling at the civic center earlier in the day, but it offered him little reprieve from the pain. Instead, he said he asked his supervisor at Domino’s if he could pick up a shift.
“I just could not stay home and think about what happened all day,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “I had to work and try to distract my mind.”
A day earlier he had learned that two of the children who perished in one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history had close ties to him, 10-year-old Jose Flores, whom he said he had raised as a grandson, and a niece he identified only as Adriana. He pulled a photo from his wallet that showed the boy he called “my little Josecito,” wearing a pink T-shirt that read “Tough guys wear pink,” and broke down in tears.
Not long ago, Mr. Costilla moved to a quiet cul-de-sac of mostly one-story homes where roosters crow to live near his cousin, Eva Mireles, a longtime teacher. He shared with Mr. Rodriguez about his own loss. His 10-year-old son did not attend Robb Elementary School, but was close to Ms. Mireles, a well-known figure in the neighborhood who befriended children and adults alike with ease. She loved running marathons and teaching fourth grade, having spent the last 17 years in the profession, he said. She had an adult daughter in her 20s and three dogs.
“She was really close to us,” Mr. Costilla told his friend. They had spent countless weekends together, barbecuing in his backyard and jogging when possible. Memorial Day weekend was not going to be different, he said. “But now she’s gone.”
Mr. Rodriguez told him he needed to get back to his job. He looked around exasperated and inspected a receipt with an address where he was supposed to deliver a pizza. “I can’t focus,” he said rubbing his head. “All I can think is of the little ones who were killed that way. What did these poor children do to anyone? They were beautiful, innocent children.”
May 25, 2022, 5:42 p.m. ET
May 25, 2022, 5:42 p.m. ETMay 25, 2022, 5:42 p.m. ET
A devastating reality of raising children in America today is that parents must be prepared to talk to their kids about mass shootings.
It’s a wrenching task, and experts say there are some universal best practices — like avoiding graphic details. Or doing your best to actively listen, rather than trying to take away children’s pain.
But the particulars of what families discuss — and how parents respond to questions and concerns — depend a lot on children’s age and development. A 5-year-old will have a very different understanding of an act of mass violence than a 15-year-old will.
The New York Times spoke with several mental health experts about some basic principles for parents and caregivers to have in mind when talking with children of all ages in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting.
Preschoolers and early elementary schoolers
With children this young, arguably the biggest question is whether to talk about the tragedy at all. Much of the answer comes down to whether you think they are likely to learn about it elsewhere, say from a classmate, an older sibling or on the news.
Your personal parental values also come into play.
“Some parents believe that even young children should know what is happening in the world — which has merit,” Steven Meyers, a professor of psychology at Roosevelt University in Illinois, said. “Other parents will want to shield their children as long as they can. There is merit to that approach as well.”
If you decide to discuss the shooting with your preschooler or kindergartner, your primary goals are twofold: Offer very simple information, and give ample reassurance that close adults are there for support and protection.
Dr. David Schonfeld, director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement and a clinician who has spent years working directly with communities in the wake of mass shootings, suggests parents say something like: I want to let you know that in a school that is hours away from us, there was a person who shot some children and adults, and a lot of people are sad. Noting where the school is can help provide some basic context about how the shooting affects them.
Help children name their emotions. For example, Dr. Meyers said, a 4-year-old might say something like, “I feel bad.” Help children unpack that feeling. Does “bad” mean sad? Angry? Frightened? Learning how to label big feelings is a bedrock emotional skill that develops with age and practice.
Older elementary school children
For children in this age group, start by asking what, if anything, they know about the event. Depending on when you speak with them, they may have already learned about the shooting from a classmate or some other source.
“You’re listening to how much they know,” Dr. Harold Koplewicz, president of the Child Mind Institute, said. “And then you’re telling them the facts of the case in a very calm, informational way. You are not sharing unnecessary details.”
Make sure to ask what questions they have, if any. If they have none, that is OK. In fact, Dr. Schonfeld said, “the most common reaction is no reaction.” Simply reassure your child that you are available if and when there are questions down the road.
But if children have questions, be careful not to provide too much detail at once.
“If they ask rapid questions, you slow it down. Because oftentimes kids don’t want as much information as they’re asking for, so you give them small pieces,” Dr. Koplewicz said, adding that if you don’t know an answer or simply want more time to think about it, say that.
Keep in mind that children of all ages, but perhaps particularly elementary-school age, tend to focus inward. So they may immediately jump to how the news applies to themselves.
“Be reassuring and say: ‘Let’s think about what’s going on in your school. What are the safety measures and precautions?’” Dr. Koplewicz said. “And the other piece of information that’s reassuring is how rare these events are. They’re horrific, but they’re still rare.”
If you have an adolescent, it is safe to assume your child has already heard the news or will soon, regardless of whether you bring it up. So again, start with questions about what your child knows and how they feel. Your primary goal is to be open to what your child says, not to try to fix anything.
“The key is to listen to their account of the situation, to be very judicious as to when you interrupt them, to focus on feelings and then to move into correcting misperceptions and providing reassurance,” Dr. Meyers said. “But the goal for all parents is to essentially drain the well of emotions by virtue of their sensitive listening.”
Keep in mind that all of the emotional confusion of adolescence could rear its head, and your tween may need some reassurance that feelings are meant to be felt.
“They’re testing the waters in a lot of ways. Like, ‘Does crying make you a baby?’ Or, ‘Is crying a normal reaction when the world is scary and hard?’” said Dr. Jessi Gold, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
So your tween might want to lean on you emotionally but also feel conflicted about it. Reassure your child that it is OK to draw support from others in times of tragedy and that doing so doesn’t mean in any way sacrificing budding independence, Dr. Gold said.
Again, the same basic advice holds: Lead with questions and focus on active listening. But with older children, you can be more forthright about your own emotions and response to the news, Dr. Koplewicz said.
“We can be angry, we can be super disgusted, we can be upset. We can even be tearful,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with showing emotions to your kid.” But you want to model positive ways of coping with those emotions, he added.
While some teenagers might welcome an opportunity to discuss their feelings and yours, others might not want to talk about them at all. Your goal is to be respectful while not “meeting avoidance with avoidance,” Dr. Gold said.
If they shy away from the conversation, let them know you’re around whenever they want to talk, Dr. Gold said. She recommended asking outright how your teenager would prefer for you to check in. Would tomorrow be OK? What’s a way you could ask that would not be intrusive or annoying?
“Give them ownership of their own feelings and their own processing,” Dr. Gold said.
For teenagers in particular, taking action can be a helpful antidote to feelings of helplessness. Talk to yours about volunteering, writing letters, donating money or just learning more about a particular topic or problem, which can be its own form of action. Even elementary school children and tweens can participate.
“Advocacy is a mature coping mechanism,” Dr. Gold said.
Know your child
Every expert interviewed for this story emphasized that it is important for parents to tap into what they know about their own children: How do they typically process difficult emotions? How much access do they have to screens and social media? What is your sense of their baseline emotional well-being?
Children with underlying anxiety or a history of trauma may have more difficulty coping, so “monitor your child,” Dr. Meyers said. Look for signs like sleep problems, changes in behavior (such as withdrawing or becoming clingy) or physical complaints. Dr. Schonfeld also noted that children are sometimes ready to talk about a seemingly unrelated loss after an event like a mass shooting, such as the death of a loved one.
There are many resources available to parents and families. The American Academy of Pediatrics and National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement offer guidance for helping children in the aftermath of a shooting. The Child Mind Institute has a nondiagnostic symptom checker that can be useful for parents who have concerns that their child is struggling.
And make sure you are giving yourself time and space to process your own emotions.
“You don’t want your anxiety to become your kid’s anxiety,” Dr. Koplewicz said.
May 25, 2022, 7:21 a.m. ET
May 25, 2022, 7:21 a.m. ETMay 25, 2022, 7:21 a.m. ET
The New York Times
Irma Garcia, a teacher of more than two decades, was known as a steadfast optimist in her family. She would crack jokes at gatherings in Uvalde, Texas, sing her favorite classic rock tunes during parties and help her nephew, John Martinez, with homework.
“She’s always been optimistic about everything, and just so loving with the people in her life,” said Mr. Martinez, 21, a student at Texas State University.
On Tuesday, he and his family had gathered to process the news from the authorities: Ms. Garcia had been among the 21 people killed — 19 students and two teachers — at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
When the authorities went inside the classroom moments after the shooting, Mr. Martinez said, they had “found her body there, embracing children in her arms pretty much until her last breath.”
She had treated her students as if they were her own children, he said, so it had been easy for loved ones to possibly “picture her putting her life on the line.”
Ms. Garcia — or Tia Garcia, as Mr. Martinez referred to his aunt in Spanish — was “like a second mom” to her nephews and students, he said.
“She brings a joy and a light to the room.”
‘They just want their sister back’
Jailah Silguero, 10, was the youngest of four children, the “baby” of her family, her father said. She loved going to school and seeing her friends. Jailah had told her father, Jacob Silguero, 35, on Monday night that she wanted to stay home on Tuesday. It was uncharacteristic of her, and by morning, Mr. Silguero said, she seemed to have forgotten about it. She got dressed and went to school as usual.
“I can’t believe this happened to my daughter, my baby,” he said.
He added, “It’s always been a fear of mine to lose a kid.”
Mr. Silguero and the family were getting ready to go to a funeral home on Wednesday after having spent hours at the SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center the day before waiting for information about Jailah. Officials asked the family to give a DNA sample using a swab.
“I figured after the DNA swab test, it was something bad,” he said. “About an hour later, they called to confirm that she had passed.”
Jailah’s siblings are taking it hard, Mr. Silguero said: “They just want their sister back.”
Jailah Silguero was among 21 people — 19 children and two adults — killed in the massacre on Tuesday.
Two cousins in one class
Jackie Cazares and Annabelle Rodriguez were cousins in the same classroom at Robb Elementary School. Jackie, who had her First Communion two weeks ago, was the social one, said Polly Flores, who was Jackie’s aunt and Annabelle’s great-aunt. “She was outgoing; she always had to be the center of attention,” Ms. Flores said. “She was my little diva.”
Annabelle, an honor roll student, was quieter. But she and her cousin were close, so close that Annabelle’s twin sister, who was home-schooled, “was always jealous,” Ms. Flores said. “We are a very tight family,” she said. “It’s just devastating.”
A little girl who loved her friends
Amerie Jo Garza was a friendly 10-year-old who loved Play-Doh.
Amerie Jo was “full of life, a jokester, always smiling,” her father, Alfred Garza III, said in a brief phone interview. She did not talk a lot about school but liked spending time with her friends at lunch, in the playground and during recess. “She was very social,” he said. “She talked to everybody.”
Amerie Jo’s extended family had gathered in the room when the Texas Rangers broke the horrible news late Tuesday.
The family’s loss came after losing several loved ones to Covid-19 over the past two years.
“We were finally getting a break, nobody was passing away,” Mr. Garza said. “Then this happened.”
Mr. Garza, who works at a used car dealership in Uvalde, said he was on a lunch break when Amerie Jo’s mother told him she could not get their daughter out of the school because it was on lockdown.
“I just went straight over there and found the chaos,” he said. He recalled seeing cars backing up on the streets, with parents trying to enter the school to find their children. Police cars were everywhere.
At first, he said, he did not think that anyone had been hurt. Then he heard that children had died. For hours, he awaited word about his daughter.
“I was kind of in shock,” he said, after hearing from the Texas Rangers. When he got home, he started to go through her pictures. “That’s when I kind of had the release,” he said. “I started crying and started mourning.”
‘She brought the neighborhood together’
Eva Mireles, who was in her 40s, loved teaching the children at Robb Elementary School, most recently fourth grade. Neighbors described her as a good-natured person who was usually smiling.
“She brought the neighborhood together,” said Javier Garcia, 18, who lived next door. “She loved those children.”
A cousin by marriage, Joe Costilla, 40, who lives down the block, said that outside of work Ms. Mireles liked to run marathons and was very athletic. “We were always hanging together — barbecues — she was a wonderful person,” he said, holding back tears. They had planned to get together over Memorial Day weekend.
Mr. Costilla’s mother, Esperanza, rushed to his home to console her grandchildren, ages 14 and 10, who knew her well.
“They are taking it really hard,” she said. “She was the kind of teacher everybody loved.”
Audrey Garcia, 48, the mother of a daughter with Down syndrome named Gabby, recalled Ms. Mireles as a transformational teacher in her child’s life.
Gabby is 23 now, with a high school diploma under her belt. Ms. Mireles had been her third-grade teacher. It was only a couple of years earlier, Ms. Garcia said, that schools in the Uvalde area had begun integrating children with mental disabilities into regular classrooms.
“It was new for teachers in that area,” Ms. Garcia said. Ms. Mireles, she said, threw herself into the work. “She used every teaching method she knew to help Gabby reach her highest potential,” she said. “She never saw that potential as lower than anyone else’s in her classroom.”
Jose Flores, 10, had a pink T-shirt that said: “Tough guys wear pink.” His grandfather George Rodriguez called him “my little Josesito” and kept a photograph of the boy in his wallet.
Mr. Rodriguez, who also lost a niece in Tuesday’s shooting, attended counseling at the civic center in Uvalde but said it had offered him little reprieve from the pain. “They were beautiful, innocent children,” he said.
On the honor roll
Xavier Lopez, 10, made the honor roll on the day he was killed. He was eager to come home and share the news with his three brothers, but his grandparents said Xavier decided to stay at school to watch a movie and eat popcorn with his classmates.
They remembered Xavier as an exuberant baseball and soccer player who had a girlfriend at school with whom he chatted away on the phone.
Leonard Sandoval, 54, Xavier’s grandfather, stood outside the family’s home on Wednesday trying to make sense of the incomprehensible. “Why?” he asked. “Why him? Why the kids?”
‘A special, special boy’
Manny Renfro said his 9-year-old grandson, Uziyah Garcia, was a “special, special boy” who loved video games, football and brought joy to their family.
“I stand in grief,” he said in a brief phone interview. “I don’t sleep. I don’t eat.”
When their family was notified by the authorities on Tuesday that Uziyah was among the victims, his mother “cried and cried,” and the family was “hysterical,” Mr. Renfro said.
“I wept,” he said. “He was just a typical kid.”
‘So much potential’
Andrea Cruz said her husband’s niece was Eliahna Torres, 10, one of the victims of the tragedy.
“She was an amazing young girl with so much potential,” she wrote in a text message. “She was a leader and loved by all her family.”
Reporting was contributed by Richard Fausset, Jack Healy, Eduardo Medina, Christina Morales, Campbell Robertson, Edgar Sandoval, Alex Traub and John Yoon.