UVALDE, Texas – The community of Uvalde, Texas, is trying to take steps towards healing after 19 children and 2 teachers were killed in a school shooting last week.
People from across the country are offering their support, including President Joe Biden, who visited the town on Sunday to mourn with the families, attend mass, and meet with first responders and state leaders.
Also, over the weekend, thousands gathered in the town square to worship and pray for healing.
“We are here to bring light to Uvalde,” said Nick Molino who attends a church in San Antonio. “We’re here to lift people up and let them know that Jesus is here with them no matter what.”
Rikki Barrera, a 4th grader from a nearby city, is one of the thousands of kids who have visited the makeshift memorial in the town square. She says she’s having a hard time processing that so many kids her age were killed.
“It’s devastating because they were almost done with school and they were barely starting their lives” Barrera says.
The memorials at Robb Elementary and the town square have quadrupled in size since Tuesday. Many of the flowers are coming from a local flower company, Country Garden & Seed. The owner, Yolanda Moreno, says everything about this tragedy is personal.
“It’s painful because from day one we make flowers for them,” Moreno said. “When the child is born, we make flowers for their first birthday. We make flowers for their pre-k graduation. We make flowers when it’s the father-daughter dance at Robb school. So it hurts right now for everybody.”
Moreno is donating free floral arrangements for the funerals and offering free flowers to the community throughout the funeral services. She says the donations are made possible by people across the country sending their support.
Dan Beazley is one of those from across the country offering support. He traveled to Uvalde from Detroit. He’s carrying a cross around the town square memorial to bring a message to Uvalde.
“We’re bringing the cross for love, hope, and healing for this community” Beazley said. “The cross is the light of the world and all God wants us to do is hold it up. That’s what our intention is, just so everyone can see the light and know that the light will never go out.”
Two weeks ago, Beazley was in Buffalo, New York spreading the same message. He says now is the time to rely on faith.
“I believe it’s a time, not only for this city, but the entire country” Beazley says.
Others are taking their pain to the pavement. Jason Portillo is a police officer from San Antonio, but he grew up in Uvalde. On Saturday, he ran 21 miles throughout Uvalde in honor of the 21 victims.
“I walked those same streets, same hallways that those kids did,” Portillo said. “I just felt I had to do something.”
While many are processing their pain, there are also feelings of anger. Many people are questioning why it took more than an hour for local police to enter the classroom where the gunman and children were locked inside.
Sylvia Abrego Araiza is a childrens probation counselor and advocates for children and their safety. She says she’s demanding change.
“We need to fight for our children,” Araiza said. “We need to stand up for our children. Besides personal responsibility, we need to step up security in the schools. The guns are getting into the wrong hands.”
Araiza’s words are felt throughout the community.
Hope Sanchez says the feels the mass shooting was preventable, and has one message for the President and local officials.
“Enough is enough. Don’t forget their names” Sanchez says.
At the request of Uvalde Mayor Don Mclaughin, the Justice Department announced it will be investigating that delayed response by law enforcement.