UVALDE, Texas — On the day the nation is dedicated to remembering those killed in war, Uvalde began saying goodbye to the 19 children and two teachers who were massacred in a shooting at their elementary school.
Visitations for Amerie Jo Garza, 10, at Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home, and for Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, 10, at Rushing-Estes-Knowles Mortuary Inc., were the first services to take place on Monday, which was Memorial Day .
Family members and friends wept and prayed the Rosary, avoiding the ubiquitous cameras and reporters drawn to the rural Texas community that was thrust into the nation’s consciousness.
“We cry with them. We shed tears with them. We pray with them,” said Dorina Davila, of San Antonio, who said she worked in a Head Start preschool program and was a mother and grandmother.
Maite remembered her obituary as a “sweet girl” who wanted to become a marine biologist “because of her caring heart towards the wildlife and animals therein”.
“Those who knew and loved her were blessed by her kind, ambitious, friendly and gentle soul,” reads her obituary.
Maite’s funeral has been set for Tuesday following Monday’s visitation.
Funerals for the remaining victims of last Tuesday’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School are scheduled throughout this week and into the middle of next month.
As people arrived to remember Amerie under gray, cloudy skies on Monday, the twittering of a house finch and the squeaks of western kingbirds could be heard. A breeze bent the palm trees and fluttered the American and Texas flags fluttering half-staff at the funeral home.
Amerie was shot as she dialed 911 in an effort to help classmates, her grandmother Berlinda Irene Arreola told the Daily Beast.
Earlier in the day, the fourth-grader received a certificate for making the honor roll.
Inside the funeral home, just like throughout Uvalde, the mood was somber, said Esther Rubio, 73, of San Antonio, who was born and raised in Uvalde.
“It’s our hometown. We had to pay homage to it,” Rubio said.
Amerie was dressed in a lavender dress with a frilly bodice in her obituary photo. In a video tribute posted online, a woman sings “Amazing Grace” over the strings of a guitar as pictures of Amerie de birth through his short childhood pass. In one she wears a black cowboy hat with a painted goatee and mustache, a bumblebee costume in another. Family and friends are often with her.
“She was a very beautiful, loving daughter,” said Leticia Gammon, 58, who worked with her grandmother at a convenience store. “She always made us laugh.”
People came up the street to lay flowers and other souvenirs at the school sign.
“Everyone who comes together and whether they know them or not, I hope all of these families somehow overcome the grief, the difficulties,” Davila said.
Reno Castro, 45, of Laredo, said Monday marked his “final farewell” to his cousin Amerie.
“I’m just trying to make sense of it all. The grieving really starts today,” he said by phone.
Castro described Amerie as an outgoing girl who loved art and music and was a favorite with teachers, although she sometimes threw some nerve at them.
“When a teacher first said her name, mispronounced it, she corrected it immediately,” he recalled with a hearty laugh.
“Where would life have taken her? It’s now a big question mark,” Castro said.
Outrage at the lost potential of shortened lives accompanied the sadness of some. Both Davila and Rubio spoke about the need for gun control, to keep children safe.
“How many lives will this take?” Davila asked. “These are innocent children who go through this every day and they are no longer safe. They are not safe in this school. They are not safe in this setting,” she said.
When asked what needs to be done to prevent another mass shooting from impacting children, Rubio didn’t mince words.
“Everyone has to get rid of their guns as far as I’m concerned,” she said. Rubio added that 18-year-olds should not be able to buy high-powered weapons like the one used by the shooter on Tuesday that killed 21 people.
“If they can’t buy beer, why should they be able to buy a gun or a rifle? »
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com.