Frank Salazar, 18, had woken up Wednesday morning ready to turn the page, but when he looked out the window he realized that his plans were not going to come true. A river of police vans, ambulances and the media crowd the street of his house, about 300 meters from Robb Primary School, where another 18-year-old, Salvador Ramos, shot dead 19 children and two teachers on Tuesday. . “We are in shock. This is a small town. The duel will last for months or years, ”says Salazar one day after the tragedy in the garden of his house. In Uvalde, a rural town of 16,000 in central Texas, everything is close, everyone knows each other, and no one expected something like this to happen to them. Salazar studied at Robb Elementary and a couple of streets up from his house is the institute where he shared a class with the murderer, shot by police during Tuesday’s incident, who also lived in the same neighborhood. Both were even going to share graduation ceremony this week.
The flowers that the neighbors have been depositing at the entrance of the school cover the sign in Spanish: “Welcome”. An hour and a half drive from the Mexican border, more than three quarters of the town are of Latino origin. “We are a small, cohesive community. We are all mixed and we are good neighbors. That is why it was unthinkable that they would kill our children. But the devil never sleeps”, says Nehli García, 63 years old who arrived as a child with her grandmother and her parents from the Mexican state of Zacatecas. Garcia lives in another of the one-story prefabricated houses in this middle-class neighborhood of town. She knows the school well because she works as a porter and many days she brought the mail to the school. “Before here you could hear the children screaming, laughing. He was full of life. Now the whole town is silent.”
In the town’s main square, a 10-minute drive from the school, some residents are silently protesting with handwritten banners bearing messages of pain and anger. Looking straight at the courts, Florina Ávila has come with her five-year-old daughter and a sign: “remember their names.” She doesn’t want to talk. She considers that there is not much more to say. Uziyah García, the youngest victim, was only eight years old. “He was the most affectionate child you can imagine,” the boy’s grandfather told the press on the day of the murder, who in his short life had had time to be a baseball fan.
“This community is full shock”, Governor Greg Abbott said on Wednesday. In a visit to the scene of the tragedy, the Republican politician did not point to the facilities to get weapons as the person responsible for the massacre, but to mental health problems. “The physical injuries of the wounded will heal, but the emotional wounds are hard to see and take longer,” said Abbott, a strong supporter of the lobby arms and whose Administration has relaxed the regulation of weapons.
At the conference of the governor of Texas, tensions that dominate the national debate on how to end the tragic – and habitual – shootings in schools or other establishments surfaced. A man stood up to question Abbott and ask him why he wasn’t doing anything to stop the violence. “Sir, he’s out of line,” Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin yelled at him. The man questioning the governor for answers was Beto O’Rourke, the former Democratic mayor of El Paso and Abbot’s rival in the November gubernatorial election.
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“I can’t believe that a son of a bitch like you is going to make this a political issue of this. They are assholes like you, get out of here”, they yelled at him from the entourage, almost all sympathizers of the Republican Party. O’Rourke was escorted out of the room. This Tuesday is the eighth mass shooting – that is, with more than three fatalities – in just over a decade in Texas.
Jesse, who also lives right across from Robb School, says he has never experienced anything like it. The closest thing that the residents of the area experienced are “three or four” chases by the border patrol agents of undocumented immigrants. The border with the Mexican state of Coahuila, an important step for those seeking to reach the United States, is only a few kilometers away. One of these hunts ended near his house. “I remember that there was a girl who was badly beaten and that I told the agents if she could give her water… But they had not come to shoot up the school,” she assured.
Shawn, a 19-year-old, just a year older than the murderer, came to school on Wednesday afternoon, magnetized by the tragedy. The young man, white and living on the outskirts of town, traveled to the place of horror that marks so many towns and cities in the United States. “So much happens… The media, the police come. Democrats will clash with Republicans over guns. They all promise that something will change. And then we all forget until it happens again. Everything repeats itself, ”he assured as he tried to hold back his tears.
His family, he says, doesn’t like having guns in the house. But they are an exception. “It’s a very widespread culture in Texas. Everybody loves them.” Frank Salazar, the killer’s classmate, shares a similar opinion. “I have no problem with weapons. But I do think there should be more controls.”
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