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Families begin to bury the 21 people killed in the Texas school shooting


Families in Uvalde, Texas, are beginning to bury the 21 people killed at Robb Elementary School last week. Today, funerals are held for 10-year-olds Amerie Jo Garza and Maite Yuleana Rodriguez. As these children are being laid to rest, it's often other children who are coming to pay their respects. The Texas Newsroom's Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is in Uvalde and tells us about the hundreds of people who have traveled there over the last few days to honor the victims.

SERGIO MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN, BYLINE: Many of those who have stood for hours under the heat are actually children, and it's been very emotional to see a really young kid at Uvalde's town square or at Robb Elementary School putting flowers or even writing a kind note to those who died. You know, one of those kids who visited with her parents is Jasmine Rosario (ph), who is 9 years old. She's in third grade.

JASMINE ROSARIO: I wanted to support about those 21 victims that died because they didn't really deserve this - like, none of the kids or any of the teachers.

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: Jasmine came to Uvalde from San Antonio because she told her mom she really wanted to visit. And that's something we've heard from multiple parents. Their kids were the ones who wanted to come. And many of these children are the same age as those who were killed. So it's very moving.

FADEL: That's difficult. So little kids like Jasmine - do they really understand what happened, about what happened to the kids in that school?

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: Yes. You know, most of these kids visiting Uvalde are hyperaware of what's happening. I mean, it's in all the news, right? And if they live in Uvalde, they've seen so many reporters out and about. But the news feels also very real for many of these kids. We asked Jasmine about this, about how she felt.

ROSARIO: I'm scared because now I'm scared of if that will happen at my elementary school.

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: I think Jasmine's words truly show the magnitude of this tragedy.

FADEL: Yeah, hard to hear a 9-year-old say she's scared to go to school. And, Sergio, what can you tell us about the two girls who are being buried today?

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: So the two children being buried today are 10-year-olds Amerie Jo Garza and Maite Yuleana Rodriguez. Visitation took place on Monday at the same time in Uvalde's two funeral homes. You know, the press wasn't allowed inside, understandably, but we saw hundreds of people going in. And there was a lot of diversity in terms of age. Some folks were wearing shirts honoring Robb Elementary. It was also super hot outside, like, in the high 90s. So there were folks, including the Red Cross, handing out water. Amerie has been described as smart. She had just made the honor roll. She was also kind and sassy. She loved Chick-Fil-A and a good vanilla bean frappe from Starbucks. Amerie's visitation took place directly across the school where she, her classmates and two of their teachers were shot to death. Maite has been described as ambitious. She was also part of the honor roll. And she really enjoyed learning about animals, especially dolphins and whales.

FADEL: And there are more funerals that are going to be happening over the next few weeks. And in a small town like Uvalde, this must be impacting everyone, right?

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: Yes. I think that everyone is feeling this. This week has also reinforced the fact that this community is interconnected. You know, a lot of people with whom I spoke told me that either they knew the victims, or they were related to the victims, or they knew the family of the victims. The community is also thinking about how to heal, Leila. Many have mentioned that it will take time. But they're holding on to their faith to move forward. And, you know, we've also seen therapy dogs in Uvalde's town square to help people cope with this tragedy.

FADEL: Sergio Martínez-Beltrán covers government and politics for The Texas Newsroom. And he's in Uvalde, Texas, reporting on the funerals. Thank you so much.

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.