Uvalde expresses a mixture of pride and anger as she mourns the school attack

Uvalde, Texas – Days after a local broke into a primary school, killing 19 children and two teachers before officers managed to kill him, signs of grief, solidarity and local pride can be seen across Uvalde.

Many wear maroon, the color of the Uvalde school district. And light blue ribbons adorn the huge oak trees that shade the city’s central square, where mourners come to lay flowers around a fountain and write messages on wooden crosses bearing the names of victims. There are 21 empty wooden chairs in front of a day care center on one of the city’s main streets.

Everyone in the predominantly Latin American city of around 16,000 seems to know someone whose life was turned upside down by the loss of a family member or close friend in the Robb Elementary School attack, which was one of the deadliest of its kind.

Joe Ruiz, pastor of Templo Cristiano, said a teacher friend of his wife – herself a former Uvalde teacher – best summed up the mood of the congregation by saying people “cried out everything” they did could, and are now just tired and need rest.

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The police have been heavily criticized for this Waiting time longer than 45 minutes to confront 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos in the adjoining classrooms, where he committed carnage.

As the investigation of the attack continues, including Ramos’ reasons for carrying it out, some residents have expressed their anger towards the police. Among them is 24-year-old carpenter Juan Carranza, who said he watched the attack from across the street from the school. The next day he called the officers cowards.

Steven McCraw, who heads the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Friday that school district police chief Pete Arredondo made the “wrong decision” to wait so long before sending officers into the locked classrooms. He said Arredondo, who was responsible for the law enforcement response during the siege, believed Ramos had been barricaded in the two adjacent classrooms and children were no longer at risk. Arredondo, who graduated from Uvalde High School and was recently elected to the city council, has not spoken out publicly since McCraw criticized his decision-making, and his home now has a police station.

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Oasis Outback, where Ramos bought his guns, has remained open and its grill restaurant has gone about its usual busy Friday night business. The gun shop at the back of the sporting goods department has been temporarily closed out of respect for the families of the victims, according to a sign posted.

An Oasis employee, who declined to give her full name, said the store received angry calls blaming it for the attack, but the callers’ phone numbers were not from the area.

Support for gun rights is strong in Uvalde, which is about halfway between San Antonio and the border town of Del Rio. But some parents and loved ones of victims are calling for change.

“I just don’t know how you can sell a gun like that to an 18-year-old. What will he use it for if not for this purpose?” said Siria Arizmendi, a fifth grade teacher whose niece Eliahna Garcia was killed. She spoke in her dining room just before the Eliahna’s great-grandparents, also residents of Uvalde, arrived.

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Javier Carranza, a 43-year-old gun owner and Army veteran whose daughter Jacklyn was killed, said it was “kind of ridiculous” to sell such firepower to an 18-year-old and better background checks were needed.

Uvalde is set amongst flat fields of cabbage, onions, carrots, corn and peppers, but mechanized farming has replaced many jobs. Building materials companies are among the most sought-after employers.

The city is home to a border patrol station that operates a highway checkpoint and monitors freight trains for illegal crossings in one of the busiest corridors. A massive camp of Haitian migrants that sprung up under a bridge in Del Rio last year made headlines around the world.

Many residents can trace their family’s presence in Uvalde through three or four generations, creating a valued sense of community. On one Friday night a month, shops stay open late and food vendors occupy the central square in front of a neoclassical courthouse.

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“Uvalde Strong” messages adorn shop windows, t-shirts and lawn signs. Curbs and sidewalks are rarer the farther you get from the central square, with roosters walking on cracked sidewalk near Robb Elementary School.

Ruiz, the pastor of Templo Crisitano, whose children and grandchildren live in Uvalde, asks new parishioners about their origins to get to know them better.

Before Tuesday, occasional traffic fatalities were the biggest tragedies that befell Uvalde.

“We have had individuals murdered, but not on such a mass scale,” said Tony Gruber, pastor of Baptist Temple Church.

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For more AP coverage of the Uvalde school shooting: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting

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https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/05/28/uvalde-a-mix-of-pride-and-anger-as-it-grieves-school-attack/ Uvalde expresses a mixture of pride and anger as she mourns the school attack

Sarah Y. Kim

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