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Voices from Uvalde: How a community mourns and comprehends 21 lives lost

A man and a child pay their respects at a memorial to the victims of the Robb Elementary School mass shooting on May 28, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas.
Michael M. Santiago
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A man and a child pay their respects at a memorial to the victims of the Robb Elementary School mass shooting on May 28, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas.

Over the last several days, we've been hearing from community members in Uvalde, Texas, as they've navigated the anguish of a mass shooting that left 21 dead — two teachers and 19 children.

Here's how the Uvalde community is remembering, processing and reflecting — in their own words.

Eliahna Garcia was "very happy and very outgoing, loved to dance and sing and play sports"

Siria Arizmendi, Eliahna Garcia's aunt, said the 9-year-old loved being with her family. On Tuesday night, the family told The Associated Press they waited until close to midnight to learn that Eliahna was dead.

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Retired pastor Julián Moreno, 80, lost his great-granddaugther during the Robb Elementary School shooting.
/ Patricia Lim/KUT
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Patricia Lim/KUT
Retired pastor Julián Moreno, 80, lost his great-granddaugther during the Robb Elementary School shooting.

At the congregation where he served as pastor for 50 years, Julián Moreno remembered how his great-granddaughter Alexandria "Lexi" Rubio had big plans for her life.

A parent says cops on the scene "were too cowardly to do their job"

Adding to the anguish felt by many in the community, questions about how long it took law enforcement to confront the shooter, and if lives could've been saved have been top of mind. NPR's Pien Huang spoke with Monique Rodriguez, one of the parents outside the school during the shooting, who says she begged law enforcement to enter the classroom where the shooter was.

"We all had guns in our life. But it wasn't a problem. You didn't pull out a gun 'cause you were angry'"

NPR's A Martínez spoke with a Uvalde couple whose livelihood relies in many ways on guns. Gail and Pat Jackowski help hunters process the wild game they shoot. Gail says she first went hunting at age 10. The couple worries Robb Elementary was a "soft target" because none of the teachers were armed.

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The mother of Alithea Ramirez, one of the fourth graders killed, was asked by reporters: What should happen now? "Just more security in the schools. I don't want this to happen again."

"That's what we do here in Uvalde. We hug, and we love"

A Martínez also met Leah Wrench outside a community vigil for the victims of the shooting at Robb Elementary, where Wrench was comforting a teenage girl in tears. Wrench says she attended the vigil because "it's a tight-knit community. We're small. And I have a grandson that goes to school in Uvalde."

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