Reporters’ notebook: Texans converge to comfort Uvalde
WORLD’s Bonnie Pritchett and Addie Michaelian report
UVALDE, Texas — Two major highways intersect in the middle of town, taking travelers to places beyond this South Texas farming community. But, since Tuesday, some have lingered out of curiosity, duty, or kindness.
The constant flow of traffic streams past a small, tree-lined park no bigger than a residential lot. Twenty-one white crosses line two sides of the fountain each bearing a pale blue heart in the center and the outline of a fish. Topping each cross is a placard with the name of one of those slain by a gunman in a fourth-grade classroom at Robb Elementary School.
At the base of each cross is a growing offering of flowers and stuffed animals. A black marker attached to each one allows people to write messages: “You will never be forgotten.” “Tia loves you.” “I love you Elie.”
The memorial to the slain children drew locals and media to the site. The latter seemed to outnumber the residents. An elderly couple passing through town on their way to their granddaughter’s graduation stopped and asked where they could make a donation.
The murder of 19 children and two adults has drawn others to this town. A recently retired husband and wife drove five hours to pray with anyone who needed it. Two barbecue restaurant owners from San Antonio, about two hours away, served up over 1,000 free meals to Uvalde’s residents. The Flores family from Luling, Texas, drove 140 miles to set up a shaved ice stand and give away snow cones to people in the nearly 100-degree heat.
“Uvalde is a little town. Luling is a little town,” said Anna Flores. She and her husband, Daniel, brought their sons, Solomon and Jeremey, 9 and 10 years old. The two boys sat quietly in red and black lawn chairs, stilled by the scene. When her kids saw the news of the shooting. Anna had to explain.
“There are people that don’t have God in their life,” she said. She didn’t tell them all the details, but she told them about the courage of the kids and the teachers who protected each other. And she encouraged them to pray: “We always pray … pray to do God’s will.”
Tony Grueben pastors Baptist Temple Church on East Main Street in Uvalde. We spoke with him in the church sanctuary: wooden pews, red carpet, and stained glass windows. He slumped back in the pew, exhausted. Grueben and other ministers stayed at the Uvalde Civic Center on Tuesday while families waited for hours to hear news of their children. For him and other Uvalde pastors, “A lot of our ministry now is a ministry of listening and silence,” he said. “Pray for wisdom, strength, and peace.”
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