All of these kids are angels Family and friends say goodbye
Funerals began Tuesday for the 19 children and two teachers killed last week in a massacre at Robb Elementary School.
UVALDE, Texas — The mourners wore shades of purple Tuesday afternoon as they streamed into Uvalde’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church to say goodbye to Amerie Jo Garza.
It was her favorite color, especially the lighter tones: lilac and lavender.
Her dad, Angel Garza, had asked visitors on Facebook to wear the color to “honor our little hero,” described in her obituary as a “kind, caring, blunt, loving, sweet, sassy and of course funny little diva.”
Amerie, 10, a fourth grader who loved swimming and drawing and Starbucks and Chick-fil-A and who dreamed of someday becoming an art teacher, was the first of 19 children to be laid to rest Tuesday after the shooting massacre at her elementary school last week. She was shot as she was dialing 911 to help her classmates, her family said.
“She was just taken too early,” said Jesus Alvarez, a second cousin to Amerie, who spoke after her burial Tuesday. He praised Amerie for trying to get help after a gunman entered the school.
“She did what she could to help other kids,” Alvarez said. “She was a hero.”
The Girl Scouts of the USA posthumously gave Amerie one of its highest honors, the Bronze Cross, which is awarded for “saving or attempting to save life at the risk of the Girl Scout’s own life.” The organization also honored Amerie at her funeral.
“You could see how much she was loved and how much she’ll be missed and how much her family wants her to be remembered,” said Stephanie Finleon Cortez, a spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, who attended Amerie’s funeral Mass.
The tragedy in Uvalde has raised questions about police response and reignited the debate around gun control in the U.S. But in this small community about 83 miles west of San Antonio, it has brought immeasurable grief.
Amerie’s funeral Tuesday afternoon was to be followed by a service for Maite Rodriguez on Tuesday night. Wednesday will bring visitations and funeral masses for other students. And so on it will go until the middle of June as this heartbroken community says goodbye again and again to its daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, classmates, students and friends.
Arnoldo Treviño Díaz, a relative of Amerie’s father, said the Rev. Eduardo Morales told those gathered at her burial that they need to put aside anger, come together and love one another. Díaz said the priest said: “She has not left. She is still here. We should not mourn, because she was such a happy person.”
He said he took solace that in her death, Amerie brought family together. He said he met children and grandchildren of cousins and relatives he didn’t know. Díaz, a veteran Marine Corps military police officer, said he saw a friend from his 1995 boot camp who he didn’t know was part of his family.
Still, grief is palpable even outside the churches where services are taking place.
“There are a lot of families who are suffering,” said Arnold Lopez, of San Antonio, the uncle of Xavier Lopez, 10, who died in the shooting. “Who would have expected it to happen here, in this town, in a small community?”
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Lopez, who was born and raised in Uvalde and spoke while visiting a memorial for the victims in front of the elementary school Tuesday, said he has taken comfort that his nephew and the other slain children are in a “better place.”