A small Texas town hosted the first funeral for a shooting victim at Yuvaldi Elementary School on Tuesday.
The service, before a second appointment scheduled for the evening, came a week after an 18-year-old gunman, eventually killed by police, murdered 19 children and teachers at Robb Elementary School.
Mourners planned 11 funerals this week. Two victims were visited on Monday and Tuesday. Princes Joe Garza and Mate Rodriguez were both 10 years old. One of the teachers, 48-year-old Irma Garcia, and two other children, Nivea Bravo and Jose Flores Jr., were also visited on Tuesday.
At an afternoon funeral for my prince, the Sacred Heart Catholic Church turned away many mourners after it reached its capacity. Hundreds were inside. Six of the coffin bearers, wearing white shirts and gloves, were carrying a small coffin.
My prince loves the color purple. At her funeral, Erica Santiago, her husband and their two children wore purple T-shirts emblazoned with pictures of the victims. He described Santiago Amiri as “a beautiful little girl who smiles a lot…very modest and attractive but full of life”.
Santiago told the Associated Press that her 10-year-old son, Adriel, is a friend of Emery and Mighty.
“It affected him a lot,” she said. “He told me he didn’t want to go to school because he was afraid that might happen. He told me, ‘Mom, I just don’t feel safe.'”
Amiri got a mobile phone for her birthday. A friend told Amiri’s father that she tried to use the phone to call the police during the shooting.
The police response is being closely monitored. He confronted the armed officers for no more than an hour before border guards killed him.
Officials said students and teachers called 911 workers for help when Ovaldi School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo asked more than a dozen officers to wait in the hallway. Officials said Arredondo believed the suspect was holed up in an adjacent classroom and no longer actively attacking students or teachers.
“It was the wrong decision,” Texas Public Safety Director Stephen McCroe told reporters Friday, adding that the commander believed “no children are in danger.” Obviously… the children in that class were in danger.”
The Federal Ministry of Justice announced the opening of an investigation into the police response.
Arredondo was due to be sworn in at city council on Tuesday. Uvald Mayor Don McLaughlin said the party would no longer take place. It was not clear when or if this would happen.
He attended several visits on Monday in Ovaldi. The Mighty family wore dyed T-shirts depicting them with angel wings. The shirts were green: Mighty’s favorite color.
A cousin, Destiny Esquivel, told CNN Mighty “I loved animals. She was determined. She was smart. She would be someone.” Esquivel also said classmates said Mighty was “courageous” during the shooting.
“Catch all the other students and tell them where they are hiding. She is a hero,” Esquivel said.
Amerie is visited at Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home, directly opposite the elementary school. On the day of the shooting, after the gunman destroyed his truck, two men ran from the funeral home to the scene. Shooter fired. Neither of the two men was injured.
Yuvaldi has about 15,000 inhabitants and two funeral homes. Funeral directors, embalmers, and others from across Texas offered to help. Funeral technicians assisted with the necessary facial reconstructions due to the damage inflicted by the assassin’s military rifle. A florist in the city told NPR that florists from other cities are also helping.
“Most arrangements last 30 to 45 minutes,” said Kelly Baker. We make thousands.
The suppliers would have provided the flowers for free, Baker said, adding, “We’re very fortunate that we didn’t look for a floral color or pattern.”
Veronica Berger, a Lacoste florist, an hour away, said: “Only florists know how to get around this. It’s very hard work, but very satisfying. When this tragedy happened, we knew exactly what to do.”
According to the school district’s website, Ovaldi High School’s graduation has been postponed out of respect for the shooting victims. In the face of continued national media attention, Rushing-Estes-Knowles Mortuary – the city’s second funeral home, Mighty Rodriguez’ burial site – “did not request any reporters or photographers for property reasons.”
The Texas Tribune reported on a memorial to the victims: 21 white wooden crosses in downtown Ovaldi, near the courthouse, city hall and post office.
“The crosses are a few meters high,” the newspaper said. “You are facing four directions from the pool and the fountain [the] town square. Bouquets piled high at everyone’s feet.
“Good times playing baseball with you,” read a handwritten note on the back of 10-year-old Jose Flores. The baseball was perched on its left branch. On it was a snack bag of Flips white pretzels covered in candy.
“Blue hearts in the center of each cross… containing messages from dozens of loved ones. A note addressed to 11-year-old Maranda Matisse read: “We were happy the last time we were together.”
There is a catholic church in Ovaldi. Funerals will continue next week, with the last scheduled for June 16.
“Everyone here knows who was killed,” Church Minister Eduardo Morales told the Washington Post. “There will be a lot of tears and a lot of sadness..but as we continue to celebrate her life, they will turn into tears of joy.”
Elahna “Ellie” Garcia’s funeral is scheduled for Monday, June 6, the day after her 10th birthday. Her family prepared a party. She was hoping to receive gifts related to the Disney movie Encanto.
“I loved this movie and talked about it a lot,” her aunt Seria Arizmendi told The Associated Press. “It’s sad for all the children.”