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Day of triumph turned into day of tragedy for an honor student

Crosses with the names of Tuesday's shooting victims are placed in front of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Thursday, May 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Crosses with the names of Tuesday’s shooting victims are placed in front of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Thursday, May 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

PA

Tuesday should have been a day of triumph for 10-year-old Maite Rodriguez. Instead, it was the day he died.

Maite was among 19 elementary students who, along with two teachers, were gunned down at Robb Elementary School in the southwest Texas town of Uvalde. The 18-year-old shooter also died.

Maite loved and excelled in physical education – after her death, her teacher texted her mother to tell her she was very competitive at kickball and ran faster than all the boys.

She had always been a straight student until the COVID-19 pandemic forced the school to cancel in-person classes. Zoom didn’t go well for Maite – she got all the F’s. But with the start of the school year, Maite bounced back – all the A’s and B’s. She was among the honor roll students recognized at an assembly on Tuesday morning.

“She worked hard, I only encouraged her,” her mother, Ana Rodríguez, said in an interview Thursday at her dining room table, which displayed a bouquet of red roses, the certificate of honor and photos. of Maite.

A few hours later, Maite was gone. Her mother described her as “focused, competitive, smart, bright, beautiful, happy”.

As a kindergartener, Maite said she wanted to be a marine biologist and was a firm believer in that goal. She researched a program at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi and told her mother that she was determined to study there.

“She was so motivated. She was definitely special. She was going to be something, she was going to be something very, very special,” Rodríguez said.

Jacklyn Cazares, who would have turned 10 on June 10, was a tough-minded “firecracker” who wanted to help those in need, her father said. Jacklyn and her second cousin, Annabell Rodriguez, were particularly close with three other classmates at Robb Elementary School.

“They are all gone now,” said Javier Cazares. “All his little best friends were killed too.”

Despite her young age, Jacklyn was tough-minded and compassionate.

“She had a voice,” her father said. “She didn’t like bullies, she didn’t like kids being bullied. In short, full of love. She had a big heart. »

“He was a character, a little firecracker.”

Cazares drove her daughter to school on Tuesday for the awards ceremony. About 90 minutes later, the family received a call about an active shooter.

“I drove like a bat out of hell,” he said. “My baby was in trouble.”

“There were over 100 people waiting. It was chaotic,” he said of the scene at school. He grew impatient with the police response and even broached the idea of ​​rushing inside with other passers-by.

Cazares said his niece followed an ambulance to the hospital and saw Jacklyn being taken inside. The whole family quickly arrived and pressed hospital officials for information for nearly three hours. They begged, cried and showed pictures of Jacklyn. Finally, a pastor, a policeman and a doctor came to them.

“My wife asked the question, ‘Is she alive or is she dead?'” Cazares said. “They were like, ‘No, she’s gone.'”

Ryan Ramirez also rushed to Robb Elementary when he heard about the shooting, hoping to find his daughter, Alithia, and bring her home, KTRK-TV reported. But Alithia was also among the victims.

Ramirez’s Facebook page includes a photo, now shown around the world, of the little girl wearing the multicolored t-shirt that announced she had run out of “simple numbers” after turning 10. The same photo was posted again on Wednesday without words, but with Alithia wearing angel wings.

The grief only grew deeper on Thursday with confirmation that the heartbroken husband of one of the slain teachers, Irma Garcia, 48, had died.

Joe Garcia, 50, had laid flowers at his wife’s memorial on Thursday morning, The New York Times reported. He “almost fell” after returning home and died of a heart attack, his nephew John Martinez told the newspaper.

The Archdiocese of San Antonio and Rushing-Estes-Knowles Mortuary confirmed Joe Garcia’s death to The Associated Press. AP was unable to independently reach members of the Garcia family on Thursday.

Married for 24 years, the couple shared four children. In a post on the school’s website at the start of the school year introducing herself to her class, Irma Garcia wrote about her love of barbecuing, listening to music and taking “country cruises” around town. neighbor of Concan.

The school year, which was due to end on Thursday, was Irma’s 23rd year of teaching, all at Robb Elementary School. She had previously been named the school’s teacher of the year and was the recipient of the Trinity Award for Excellence in Education from Trinity University in 2019.

For five years, Irma had co-taught with Eva Mireles, who was also killed.

Mireles also posted on the site at the start of the school year, noting that she has been teaching for 17 years. She cited her “supportive, fun and loving family.”

“Welcome to 4th grade! We have a great year ahead of us!” she wrote.

Two of the victims had hoped to skip class that day.

Carmelo Quiroz’s grandson, Jayce Luevanos, 10, had begged to accompany his grandmother on Tuesday as she accompanied his great-granddaughter’s kindergarten class to the San Antonio Zoo. But, he said, the family told Jayce it made no sense to skip school so close to the end of the year. Plus, Jayce loved school.

“That’s why my wife is in so much pain, because he wanted to go to San Antonio,” Quiroz told USA Today. “He was so sad he couldn’t go. Maybe if he was gone, he would be here.

Jayce’s cousin, Jailah Nicole Silguero, 10, also wanted to miss school that day. Jailah’s mother, Veronica Luevanos, tearfully told Univision that Jailah seemed to sense something serious was about to happen.

Jailah’s friend Nevaeh Alyssa Bravo was also killed and her aunt noted that Neveah’s first name is spelled heaven backwards. In a Facebook post, Yvonne White described Nevaeh and Jailah as “our angels”.

Two men who responded to the shooting discovered their own children among the victims.

Uvalde County Sheriff’s Deputy Felix Rubio and his wife were at school Tuesday morning to celebrate with their daughter, Alexandria “Lexi” Rubio, 10, since the fourth-grade student made the honor roll with all A’s and received a good citizen award.

In a Facebook post, Kimberly Rubio wrote, “We told her we loved her and would pick her up after school. We didn’t know it was goodbye.

Medical assistant Angel Garza also rushed to the school and immediately found a girl covered in blood among the terrified children exiting the building.

“I am not injured. He shot my best friend,” the girl told Garza when he offered to help. “She’s not breathing. She was just trying to call the cops.

Her friend was Amerie Jo Garza – Angel Garza’s stepdaughter.

Amerie was a happy kid who was on the honor roll and loved to paint, draw and work with clay. “She was very creative,” her grandmother Dora Mendoza said. “It was my baby. Every time she saw flowers, she drew them.

GoFundMe pages have been set up for many victims, including one on behalf of all victims that has raised over $3.7 million.

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This story has been corrected to show that Lexi’s last name is Rubio, not Aniyah. He also corrects the spelling of another victim’s name. She was Annabell Rodriguez, not Annabelle.

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Thickets reported in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Associated Press writer Stefanie Dazio contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

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For more AP coverage of the Uvalde school shooting, go to https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings