Just 24 hours earlier, seniors from Uvalde High School marched in a line, high-fiving elementary school students at Robb Elementary School.
The following day, the unimaginable would happen — an 18-year-old gunman would enter the campus and fire dozens of shots that would kill 19 young children and two teachers, the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook in 2012 and the deadliest ever in Texas.
For hours, families were told to stay away from the elementary school as staff tried to account for every student.
For hours, and well into Tuesday night, families one by one were reunited with their children at a civic center in the small town about 85 miles west of San Antonio.
Those who didn’t hear any news were asked for DNA swabs to match with the children’s bodies that investigators were trying to identify.
By 10 p.m., reports of screams broke out at the civic center as nearly two dozen parents and loved ones were told that their babies wouldn’t be coming home.
One by one, reports of the names of the third- and fourth-grade victims and teachers came throughout the night:
8-year-old Uziyah Garcia;
10-year-old Xavier Lopez;
Fourth-grader Nevaeh Bravo;
10-year-old Amerie Garza;
10-year-old Maite Yuleana Rodriguez;
10-year-old Makenna Lee Elrod;
Fourth-grader Ellie Garcia;
10-year-old Tess Mata;
10-year-old Anabell Guadalupe Rodriguez;
10-year-old Rogelio Torres;
10-year-old Alithia Ramirez;
10-year-old Elijah Cruz Torres;
10-year-old Jose Flores;
10-year-old Jayce Carmelo Luevanos;
11-year-old Jailah Nicole Silguero;
11-year-old Miranda Mathis;
10-year-old Lexi Rubio.
Two more children haven’t been publicly identified.
The timeline of events
Eerily similar to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20-year-old Adam Lanza first killed his mother before shooting 26 children and adults to death, investigators believe 18-year-old Salvador Ramos first shot his 66-year-old grandmother in the face.
His wounded grandmother ran out of her home “in a state of shock,” a witness told WFAA. She remained in critical condition Wednesday.
It was around 11 a.m. Ramos had posted three times on Facebook that morning, the first saying he was going to shoot his grandmother. He followed with “I shot my grandmother,” and “I’m going to shoot an elementary school.”
Ramos left his grandmother’s home, where he lived, and crashed his car outside Robb Elementary School. He ran inside the building wearing a tactical vest as body armor and carrying a AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, CNN reported. It was 11:30 a.m.
Officers with the school district approached him. Ramos overpowered one of the officers, reported The Austin American-Statesman, and continued into the school, went down two hallways and entered a classroom that was connected internally to another classroom.
At 11:43 a.m., Robb Elementary posted on Facebook that the campus was under lockdown “due to gunshots in the area.”
“The students and staff are safe in the building. The building is secure in a Lockdown Status,” said Anne Marie Espinoza, the executive director of communications and marketing for the school district. “Your cooperation is needed at this time by not visiting the campus. As soon as the Lockdown Status is lifted you will be notified.”
Moments later, the school confirmed an active shooter.
“Law enforcement is on site. Your cooperation is needed at this time by not visiting the campus. As soon as more information is gathered it will be shared,” the Facebook post read. “The rest of the district is under a Secure Status.”
According to CNN, Ramos was able to enter several classrooms. An AP report confirmed Wednesday morning that the 21 killed were in one classroom.
“The shooter was able to make entry into a classroom, barricaded himself inside that classroom and again just began shooting numerous children and teachers that were in that classroom having no regard for human life,” a spokesperson from the Department of Public Safety said. “… Just began shooting anyone that was in his way. At that point we had a tactical law enforcement arrive … that were able to make forcible entry into that classroom. They were met with gunfire as well but they were able to shoot and kill that suspect.”
A Border Patrol agent killed Ramos, Gov. Greg Abbott said.
Marsha Espinosa, with the Department of Homeland Security, confirmed that Ramos shot at Border Patrol agents arriving at the scene.
“Risking their own lives, these Border Patrol Agents and other officers put themselves between the shooter and children on the scene to draw the shooter’s attention away from potential victims and save lives,” Espinosa wrote on social media. “At least one Border Patrol Agent was wounded by the shooter during the exchange of gunfire. On-and-off duty Border Patrol Agents arrived on the scene to assist with transferring students safely to their families and providing medical support.”
Another update from the school continued to urge families to stay away from campus. The students would be taken to the Willie DeLeon Civic Center to reunite with their families, they were told.
About three hours after the lockdown, parents were given the green-light to check on their kids.
Reporters at the scene waited outside the civic center for hours alongside hysterical parents. Well into the night, families still awaited news on their children, even being asked for DNA swabs to help identify the bodies. By then, the district had decided to cancel classes for the rest of the school year.
“Our community has experienced a terrible tragedy. We must come together to console one another and respect the privacy of the families. Please keep all families in your prayers,” a school spokeswoman posted on social media. “The Graduation Ceremony will be addressed at a later time.”
By 10 p.m., reporters began hearing screams and sobs as news was broken to families that their children were dead.
Family members took to social media while they waited in the dark for news. Many later followed up with updates with the worst news they could hear.
“My tia did not make it, she sacrificed herself protecting the kids in her classroom, i beg of you to keep my family including all of her family in y’all’s prayers , IRMA GARCIA IS HER NAME and she died a HERO. she was loved by many and will truly be missed,” one tweet read.
“My baby cousin was found, she was in heaven.. thank you to everyone who said a prayer for me and my family tonight when most needed. just yesterday i was pretending to fight you when we walked your school, i know you are in heaven throwing a softball with wela.. love u princess,” another said.
“My precious angel you are loved so deeply. In my eyes you are not a victim but a survivor,” an older sister of one of the victims wrote. “I love you always and past forever baby sister, may your wings soar higher then you could ever dream. Till we meet again Tess Marie, love your big sissy.”
‘We will pull together’
As of Wednesday morning, all the victims were identified and removed from the school, CNN reported.
As the names of the children were released, a GoFundMe fundraiser had raised nearly $1.4 million for those affected by the shootings.
Nearby neighbors and residents spent the day leaving flowers and balloons outside the elementary school, reports said.
A tearful woman just delivered 19 balloons to Robb Elementary School in Uvalde and asked DPS troopers to place them on campus. pic.twitter.com/noWtzQqQOw
— Tony Plohetski (@tplohetski) May 25, 2022
The stories of courage n Uvalde are extraordinary.
Angeli Gomez ran into Robb elementary while she could hear gunfire to reach her 9-y/o and 8-y/o.
She succeeded. But for parents that didn’t, who will never hug their kids again, she brought flowers to a memorial. #Uvalde 1/ pic.twitter.com/HFHmFTsoTV
— Dianne Solis (@disolis) May 25, 2022
A funeral home, Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home, also offered to provide services without charge to victims’ families.
“We have fought together as a community and we will pull together as one now in our time of need,” a Facebook post said. “Hillcrest will be assisting families with NO COST for funerals for all involved in (Tuesday’s) horrific events. Prayer for our small amazing town. #UvaldeStrong.”
Around 12:30 p.m., Abbott and other officials provided updates.
“Evil swept across Uvalde yesterday... It is intolerable and unacceptable to have anyone in our state who would kill little kids in our schools. Children are a blessing,” Abbott said.
Abbott put the final death count at 21 — 19 kids and two faculty — and 17 others whose injuries were not life-threatening. “The gunman had no known criminal history or history of mental health,” Abbott said Wednesday.
During the press conference, Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat running for governor, interrupted. O’Rourke, pointing at Abbott, told him: “This is on you until you choose to do something about it. This will continue to happen. Someone needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue be killed just like they were killed yesterday.”
O’Rourke was escorted out of the auditorium.