“I’ve always prayed that something like this wouldn’t happen in Ovaldi.”

Elizabeth Ruiz Chavez can barely comprehend the tragedy that unfolded this week in her hometown of Ovaldi, Texas. She fights back tears and talks about her cousin, Mighty Rodriguez. She was one of 19 schoolchildren killed Tuesday, along with two adults, when an 18-year-old gunman committed a massacre at Robb Elementary School in the quiet town.

“It’s devastating, and worst of all, there are no words for it,” Chavez sighed, donning jeans and sunglasses in the Texas heat. “Fortunately, my girls are with me,” she said at the memorial service, surrounded by her husband Vicente and daughters Angelina (14), Eileen (11) and Alida (8). Chavez said Alida had a dentist appointment on Tuesday and was therefore not at school when the gunman opened fire. “She was so happy in the car when all this happened.” Meanwhile, Alida watches with wide eyes.

The elementary school shooting shocked the city of Ovaldi and the entire country. It’s the deadliest in an American school since the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 26 people, including 20 children and six adults. Since then, dozens of people have been killed in mass shootings in the United States, including a music festival in Las Vegas, a nightclub and high school in Florida, a public building in San Bernardino, California, and a church and Walmart store in Texas. But the fact that so many schoolchildren as young as ten have now been killed in gun violence has left many in the United States feeling depressed and hopeless.

Buying guns legally

People comfort each other while they wake up.
Jimmy Norris pictures

“It’s very sad,” said Mariana Barra, who came to lay flowers beside the school sign in a pleasant residential area of ​​dirt roads surrounded by greenery and modest bungalows. “Innocent kids were taken away, they were pure and had nothing to do with the shooter. Young men with problems like him shouldn’t be able to get weapons, that’s not okay.”

The gunman, who was eventually killed by a border guard, had holed up in a classroom after shooting his grandmother at home, near the school. The grandmother he was living with was seriously injured. Most of the victims were at school in class with their teacher. Sometimes forensic doctors needed DNA to identify the remains.

Little is known about the motives of the perpetrator, who was identified by the authorities as Salvador Rolando Ramos. He bought two firearms and semi-automatic ammunition without any problem, which is legal in Texas. Shortly before his actions, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced Wednesday that he had communicated his plans via Facebook. Facebook said these were direct messages to a fifteen-year-old girl in Germany. He is said to have written, “I’m going to shoot my grandmother, and I’m going to shoot in an elementary school.”

Strong sense of community

More than 24 hours after the massacre, Robb Elementary School was surrounded by police barricades and dozens of vehicles from US and international media. †welcome” And “Benvenidos“It is the name of the school – of Ovaldi’s population, over 15,000 residents, over 80 percent Hispanic.

In his forties, Julio Garcia has lived all his life in Ovalde, about 125 kilometers west of San Antonio and more than an hour’s drive from the US border with Mexico. He’s at a memorial service today with his wife and two teenage children. “We live in a place where almost everyone knows, and there is a strong sense of community, so this affects all of us,” said Garcia, a man with a mustache in black jeans and a baseball cap. He sadly said that two of his distant cousins ​​had died. “There are no words for that.”

Youngsters with problems like a shooter shouldn’t be able to get their hands on weapons

Mariana Para Grief in the damaged school

His daughter, Julisa Garcia, 11, who has a long black ponytail, previously attended Rob Elementary School. “It is a beautiful school with many activities. I am shocked, this is crazy.” Her brother Ibrahim, 16, is a friend of one of the children of the teacher Irma Garcia, who was killed in the massacre. I taught at the school for 23 years. “She was killed while trying to protect her students,” he says.

Garcia still does not believe that Yuvaldi now belongs to the infamous series of American shootings, with names like Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Parkland, San Bernardino and Columbine. “I never thought something like this would happen here,” he concludes. “it is very difficult.”

Norma Jean Sandoval cannot fully comprehend the tragedy. I studied at another school in Ovaldi for 28 years. “Ovaldi is a great place to raise kids,” she says. “Nice and friendly with helpful parents. So this affects the community in a big way. I’ve always prayed that nothing like this would happen here.”

Read also: An armed security guard makes American schools less safe

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