Homeroom teachers were being hailed as heroes Wednesday, a day after yet another teenage gunman stormed a Texas elementary school, barricaded himself inside a classroom and callously murdered 19 students and two of their instructors.
With just days left before summer break, gory details emerged about the carnage at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, where authorities searched for clues to answer the question on the hearts and minds of parents from every corner of the country: “Why?”
Even the gunman’s own messages, posted online just minutes before the onslaught, gave little insight about his motive. Authorities said 18-year-old shooter Salvador Ramos, who shot his own grandmother before setting his sights on the school, posted three Facebook messages before the attack.
The first message said he was going to shoot his grandmother. The second message said he had shot his grandmother. And the third message, about 15 minutes before the school shooting, said he was going to open fire at an elementary school.
Ramos was shot and killed during a gun battle with responding cops, but not before he killed the hopes and dreams of an entire community and wounded the psyche of America.
Among the young dead was fourth-grader Amerie Jo Garza, who that same day had received an honor roll certificate. Relatives said she tried to call for help during the attack.
“The gunman went in and he told the children, ‘You’re going to die,’” Amerie’s grandmother, Berlinda Irene Arreola, told The Daily Beast, “And she had her phone and she called 911. And instead of grabbing it and breaking it or taking it from her, he shot her.”
He also shot and killed hero teachers Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia, who died protecting their students, officials said.
Mireles, a bilingual special education teacher with 17 years of experience, taught fourth-graders at the school. Garcia appeared to be shielding students when she was struck by the gunfire, officials said.
“Mom, I have no words to describe how I feel right now, tomorrow, and for the rest of my life,” Mireles’ daughter wrote in a lengthy Facebook tribute. “I never thought that I would be here writing this type of post for you. Mom, you are a hero. I keep telling myself that this isn’t real. I just want to hear your voice.”
Other than the private one-to-one text messages on Facebook, Ramos gave “no meaningful forewarning” of the attack, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said.
The Republican governor’s news conference was interrupted by Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Beto O’Rourke, who told Abbott the shooting was “totally predictable” and that he was “doing nothing.”
O’Rourke was escorted away.
Abbott and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who stood behind the governor, have been roundly criticized for cozying up to the gun industry, even in the wake of mass shootings. Both politicians are scheduled to speak Friday at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention — in Texas.
Former President Donald Trump is expected to appear at the same event.
The NRA, in a statement, offered its “deepest sympathies,” and said the shooting was the result of a “lone, deranged criminal.”
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Authorities said Ramos legally purchased the guns and the ammunition used in the attack shortly after his 18th birthday. Even so, Abbott downplayed guns as a problem, and said the focus should be on mental health, even though no reports have surfaced that Ramos was mentally ill.
He said gun control is not the answer.
“There are real gun laws in New York,” Abbott said. “There are real gun laws in California.
“There are more people shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas.”
The Uvalde massacre struck an emotional chord from coast to coast: From California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom asked lawmakers to send him a dozen gun control bills by the end of the month, to New York, where Gov. Hochul pushed elected officials to raise the minimum purchase age for the type of rifles used in the bloodbaths in Texas and in Buffalo on May 15.
President Biden, meanwhile, said he would visit Texas in the coming days to offer condolences to the heartbroken families. He reiterated the need for “common-sense” gun reform measures, and indicated that the Second Amendment is not absolute.
“As a nation, I think we all must be there for them,” Biden said. “Everyone. And we must ask when in God’s name will we do what needs to be done to, if not completely stop, fundamentally change the amount of the carnage that goes on in this country.”