‘She had a heart of gold’: First funerals for Uvalde elementary school victims begin with Amerie Jo Garza, 10 – whose father tearfully appeared on CNN and was comforted by Anderson Cooper
Amerie Garza had just been named to the honor roll when she was murdered. On Tuesday her funeral service was held in Uvalde
The first funeral has been held in Uvalde for victims of last week’s school massacre, as the reeling close-knit Texan community braces itself for 20 further farewells.
Amerie Jo Garza, 10, was laid to rest on Tuesday afternoon following a Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic church, a 114-year-old church about a mile from the elementary school where she was murdered.
Her stepfather, Angel Garza, a medic, dashed to the school on hearing the news of the active shooter, and saw a 10-year-old girl covered in blood. He asked what had happened, and was told it was not her blood but that of her best friend Amerie – his daughter.
Amerie had called 911, it later emerged, and the gunman, on hearing her call, shot her.
‘I just want people to know she died trying to save her classmates,’ her stepfather said. ‘She just wanted to save everyone.’
Pallbearers are seen lifting the casket of Amerie outside the Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Tuesday
Amerie’s funeral was the first of 11 to take place in Uvalde this week
Angel Garza, pictured with Amerie in an undated photo, told CNN on Wednesday: ‘How do you look at this girl and shoot her? Oh, my baby. How do you shoot my baby?’
Angel Garza wept outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, as he told Anderson Cooper of the horrifying moment he found out his stepdaughter was dead – while trying to provide medical assistance to a 10-year-old covered in the girl’s blood
On Friday, Amerie was posthumously awarded the Bronze Cross by the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, her grandmother, Berlinda Arreola, said.
The national award is reserved for Girl Scouts who show ‘extraordinary heroism’ or risk their lives to save another’s.
Many of the mourners who packed into the church on Tuesday were dressed in lilac and lavender – the favorite colors of a little girl who dreamed of growing up to be an art teacher.
The church was decorated with pots of lavender, and her casket was gray with lilac.
‘Amerie Jo Garza was a kind, caring, blunt, loving, sweet, sassy and of course funny little diva who ‘hated dresses’ but nonetheless; she truly had a heart of gold,’ her family said.
Garza described Amerie as ‘the sweetest little girl’ who was a good student and always well-behaved for her family.
A young girl is seen arriving for Amerie’s funeral with a drawing done in her honor
The tribute to Amerie reads: ‘Forever gone but never forgotten’
Mourners arrive at the church ahead of Amerie’s funeral on Tuesday
Many of those who arrived at the church were wearing lilac – Amerie’s favorite color
Some of those attending wore t-shirts in her favorite color, made in tribute to the 10-year-old
Amerie, who had just celebrated her tenth birthday, used her new cell phone to call 911 during the massacre but was shot dead while sitting next to her best friend
Her mother, Kimberly Garcia, took to Facebook to address the family’s loss, saying it is incomprehensible
‘I just want to know what she did to be a victim,’ he said the day after her death.
‘She was so sweet… she was the sweetest little girl who did nothing wrong.
‘She listened to her mom and dad, she always brushed her teeth, she was creative, she made things for us, she never got in trouble in school.’
After the Mass, Amerie’s procession continued to Hillcrest Memorial cemetery.
A few hundred had gathered for a short burial ceremony: when it was over, her family released white dove-shaped balloons into the wind.
Amerie loved pizza, Chick-fil-A and swimming, her family said.
She kissed her three-year-old brother, Zayne, every morning before she left for school. Last year, she was given the school’s ‘Heart of Gold’ award — and this year, she made honor roll.
The day after her death, her mother, Kimberly Garcia, posted a picture of Amerie holding up a certificate in recognition of joining the A-B honor roll.
‘You did not deserve this my sweet baby girl,’ her mother wrote. ‘Mommy needs you, Amerie I can’t do this life without you.’
This week alone there will be 11 funerals.
On Tuesday evening, the funeral of 10-year-old Maite Rodriguez will be held.
‘She loved animals,’ her cousin, Destiny Esquivel, told CNN’s Adrienne Broaddus on Monday.
Maite wanted to be a marine biologist.
‘She was determined. She was smart. She was going to be someone.’