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21 lives lost: Uvalde victims were a cross-section of a small, mostly Latino town in South Texas

By Sneha Dey, Erin Douglas, Andrew Zhang and Brooke Park, The Texas Tribune, and Jessica Priest, The Texas Tribune and ProPublica

21 lives lost: Uvalde victims were a cross-section of a small, mostly Latino town in South Texas” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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The 19 students included fashionistas and artists, basketball and softball players, dancers and TikTok makers. The two educators were celebrated veterans who together had taught four decades of local children.

One boy brewed his grandparents a pot of coffee every morning. One girl wanted to be a marine biologist. One teacher had been married for 24 years to her high school sweetheart.

As summer vacation approached, their lives were abruptly cut short Tuesday by a gunman at Robb Elementary School in the mostly Latino town of Uvalde.

These are the 21 lives lost.

Makenna Lee Elrod, 10

Credit: Makenna Lee Elrod’s family via REUTERS

Allison McCullough will remember Makenna’s smile, which she said could light up a room.

“She had the biggest heart and loved her family and friends so much,” McCullough said of her niece on a GoFundMe page.

Late Thursday, a young boy who said he was 8 years old walked up to Makenna’s cross in the town square. He dropped a single white rose on the pile of flowers, gifts and stuffed animals in front of it.

Layla Salazar, 11

Credit: Layla Salazar’s family via REUTERS

Layla loved to swim and dance. And she could really run. The 11-year-old won six races in a recent field day and took home blue first-place ribbons.

Now she would “run with the angels,” said her father, Vinnie Salazar.

He would “jam” with his daughter to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses on the way to school. The song, he wrote on Facebook, was the only thing bringing him peace right now.

Maranda Mathis, 11

Note per her obituary it's Maranda
Credit: Maranda Mathis’ family via REUTERS

Next to the memorial for Maranda at the town square are piles of bouquets and two gray teddy bears.

Someone who signed as Khloe wrote to Maranda in the center of the cross: “In our last time together, we were happy.” Someone else had drawn small butterflies.

Leslie Ruiz, a friend of Maranda’s mother, wrote to The Washington Post that the 11-year-old was fun, spunky and very smart.

“She had manners,” Ruiz said in the message. “She was a bright girl.”

Her family describes her as “sweet, smart and a shy tomboy who enjoyed being in nature and the outdoors.”

“Those who knew Maranda, knew her great imagination and often expressed her love for unicorns, especially if they were her favorite color purple,” they wrote in her obituary.

Nevaeh Bravo, 10

Credit: Nevaeh Bravo’s family via REUTERS

Nevaeh, whose name is “heaven” spelled backwards, now flies with the angels, her cousin Emily Grace Ayala wrote on Facebook.

“It just feels like a nightmare that we cannot wake up from,” another cousin, Austin Ayala, told The Washington Post. “Her siblings have to wake up every day knowing that she’s not there with them.”

Jose Manuel Flores Jr., 10

Credit: Jose Flores’ family via REUTERS

Jose was a good brother. He would try to help take care of his infant brother. His sister Endrea Flores, who is 9 months younger than Jose, said her brother would always play with her and support her.

Jose’s mother said he was her “little shadow” and would help her around the house.

Jose wanted to be a police officer when he grew up to protect others, said his father, Jose Flores Sr.

“He was a helper,” he told CNN.

Xavier Lopez, 10

Credit: Xavier Lopez’s family via REUTERS

Even at 10 years old, Xavier could pull off a stylish outfit, complete with a button-down shirt and clean Adidas sneakers.

He could also put on a show for the cameras. He would dance to Colombian songs and do face masks with his mom on her TikTok account.

“He was funny, never serious, and his smile,” his mom, Felicha Martinez, told The Washington Post. “That smile I will never forget. It would always cheer anyone up.”

But he also excelled in school, where his favorite subject was art. He loved to shoot hoops and play baseball, according to the Post.

His mother said she attended an honor roll ceremony for him Tuesday morning. He “couldn’t wait” to get to middle school, she said.

Tess Marie Mata, 10

Credit: Tess Mata’s family via REUTERS

Tess had a jar full of cash in her purple bedroom, according to The Washington Post. She was saving up money for a family vacation to Disney World.

Relatives said she loved the Nickelodeon show “Victorious” and the Houston Astros.

Maelee Haynie, 16, and Mackenzie Haynie, 17, said Tess was best friends with their younger sister. They remember Tess as an introverted girl who loved her cat.

Together they watched one video of Tess and their little sister performing a friendship handshake, which ended with the two girls jumping triumphantly to a chest bump.

She was athletic; she could do the splits and practiced softball.

Tess — or Tessy, as some of her friends and family called her — had a contagious laugh, said her sister Faith Mata.

“Sissy I miss you so much, I just want to hold you and tell you how pretty you are,” Faith wrote on Facebook. “We have one sassy guardian angel that I know is going to protect our family.”

Rojelio Torres, 10

Credit: Rojelio Torres’ family via REUTERS

A large stuffed Yoda, along with a Batman-themed football and several stuffed animals, greeted loved ones at Rojelio’s memorial at the town square.

On the cross with his name, one child had written,“You were a good friend” with smiley faces for the two O’s in “good.” Others kept it simple. “Sup Rojelio,” another message read.

Family members and friends have made their profile pictures an illustration of Rojelio. He was remembered as a smart and loving son.

“I lost a piece of my heart,” his mother, Evadulia Orta, told ABC News.

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Eliahna “Ellie” Amyah Garcia, 9

Credit: Ellie Garcia’s family via REUTERS

Eliahna knew she wanted to be a cheerleader, her dad, Steven Garcia, told the Today Show. She loved basketball and making TikToks.

“Eliahna was such a sweet girl with a lovely and beautiful soul,” a GoFundMe page in her honor says. “She would light up everyone’s world with big smiles & big hugs.”

She was a planner. She had her eye on a quinceañera dress, which her dad said the family would buy and hang in her room. Her dad posted on Facebook a video of her choreographing her own dance for the celebration.

Eliahna would’ve had to wait five more years to wear the dress. She would have turned 10 next week. Her family was planning a pool party celebration.

“Told her we’re going to have a party and her face just lit up,” her dad said. “That was the last time I saw her.”

Eliahna A. Torres, 10

Credit: Eliahna Torres’ family via REUTERS

Eliahna wore the number four on the softball field. She loved the sport and was in contention for a spot on the city all-star team. She was looking forward to her last Little League game of the season after school on Tuesday.

“She was an amazing young girl with so much potential,” a family member told The New York Times. “She was a leader and loved by all her family.”

Two Little League teams in the area played a game in honor of her memory this week, according to TV station KIII.

“Today was her last softball game. She made all-stars,” coach Lisa Monjaras told the Little League players that day. “She’s not going to make her game tonight, so guess what? We are going to play for her.”

Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, 10

Credit: Annabell Rodriguez’s family via REUTERS

Annabell was a quiet child and an earnest student, having earned her place on the school’s honor roll.

She was cousins, classmates and close friends with Jackie Cazares, another victim.

“We are a very tight family,” Polly Flores, Annabell’s great aunt and Jackie’s aunt, told The New York Times. “It’s just devastating.”

Jackie Cazares, 9

Credit: Jackie Cazares’ Family via REUTERS

Two weeks ago, Jackie received her First Communion.

Her family members describe her as a girl full of life who brightened the day of people around her.

“Jackie was the one that would go out of her way to help anyone,” Jackie’s father, Jacinto Cazares, told ABC News. “It gives me some comfort that she … would have done something to help her classmates in that very scary scenario.”

She was cousins, classmates and close friends with Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, another victim.

Uziyah Garcia

Credit: Uziyah Garcia’s family via REUTERS

Uziyah last visited his grandfather Manny Renfro in San Angelo during spring break. They threw a football together, and Renfro was teaching him pass patterns.

“Such a fast little boy and he could catch a ball so good,” Renfro told the Associated Press. “There were certain plays that I would call that he would remember and he would do it exactly like we practiced.”

Uziyah was “the sweetest little boy that I’ve ever known,” Renfro said.

Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, 10

Credit: Silguero and Luevanos family via REUTERS

Jayce would always bring the neighborhood kids to his family’s home, just a block away from the elementary school where he was killed.

The yard was often packed with children, his grandfather, Carmelo Quiroz, told USA Today.

The 10-year-old would make his grandparents a pot of coffee every morning. He wrote notes like, “I love you, Grandpa.”

“He was our baby,” Quiroz said.

Another victim, Jailah Nicole Silguero, was Jayce’s cousin.

Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, 10

Credit: Maite Rodriguez’s family via REUTERS

Green was Maite’s favorite color. She was always sporting her pair of lime green Converse tennis shoes. She had hand-drawn a heart on the right shoe.

Her mother, Ana Rodriguez, said Maite would always get chicken strips with a side of sliced jalapeños when they went to Whataburger.

She described her daughter as sweet, caring and goal-driven. Maite had told her mother she wanted to study at Texas A&M University and become a marine biologist.

She taught herself how to sew from YouTube videos. She had just picked up a camera and was practicing photography. And when it came to P.E. class, she wanted to win.

“As I lay here on this empty bed and with tears running down my face at 3am I would like to say to my baby girl ‘it’s not goodbye it’s I’ll see you later my sweet girl,’” Rodriguez wrote in a tribute on Facebook.

Jailah Nicole Silguero, 10

Credit: Silguero and Luevanos’ family via REUTERS

It was uncharacteristic of her, but Jailah told her parents she did not want to go to school the morning of the shooting, her mother, Verónica Luevanos, told Univision on Wednesday.

Jailah asked her father if she could stay home; he told her it was up to her mother, who eventually dropped her off at the elementary school.

“She always liked going to school, but she didn’t want to go yesterday,” Luevanos said in Spanish. “I think she knew something was going to happen.”

Luevanos sobbed as she tried to describe her daughter. Jailah was always dancing. She liked watching TikToks. She often spent her time outdoors.

Another victim, Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, was Jailah’s cousin.

Irma Garcia, 48

Credit: Courtesy of Robb Elementary School

Garcia was about to complete her 23rd year of teaching at Robb Elementary the week she was killed. She started teaching there about a year after she married Joe Garcia, her high school sweetheart. They loved to barbecue together.

“These two will make anyone feel loved no matter what. They have the purest hearts ever,” their nephew Joey Martinez wrote on Twitter.

On Thursday, just two days after the shooting, Joe Garcia died from a heart attack.

They are survived by their four children, Cristian, 23; Jose, 19; Lyliana, 15; and Alysandara, 13.

Eva Mireles, 44

Credit: Courtesy of Robb Elementary School

Mireles worked as an educator for 17 years. Many in the small-knit community of Uvalde have been her students.

Mireles’ husband, Ruben Ruiz, is a school police officer. He ran an active-shooter drill at the local high school just months ago, according to the school district’s Facebook post.

The fourth-grade teacher would call her daughter, Adalynn, at about 4:30 p.m. every afternoon as she left the school campus. On Tuesday, Adalynn’s phone did not ring.

Adalynn recalled her mother’s hands and the calluses she had developed because of her routine CrossFit workouts. Adalynn often called on her mother to check on the chicken she cooked. They would sing karaoke and reenact Tik Toks together.

“I don’t know how to do this life without you, but I will take care of dad. I will take care of our dogs and I will forever say your name,” her daughter wrote in a tribute on Facebook.

Amerie Jo Garza, 10

Credit: Amerie Jo Garza’s family via REUTERS

Amerie was known to be protective of her brother, 3-year-old Zayne. She would kiss him every morning before she went to school, her grandmother, Berlinda Arreola, told People Magazine.

Her family will remember her as a hero. She was trying to dial 911 on her cellphone when the gunman shot her, Arreola said.

A vanilla bean frappe and Chick-fil-A lover, Amerie was known by her family as a diva who detested dresses. She dreamed of becoming an art teacher. Amerie celebrated her 10th birthday earlier this month.

“My little love is now flying high with the angels above,” Amerie’s dad, Angel Garza, wrote on Facebook. “Please don’t take a second for granted. Hug your family. Tell them you love them. I love you Amerie Jo. Watch over your baby brother for me.”

Alexandria “Lexi” Aniyah Rubio, 10

Credit: Alexandria Aniyah Rubio’s family via REUTERS

There was a lot Alexandria was looking forward to: practicing softball and basketball with her father, playing volleyball in the seventh grade and learning about feminism.

The fourth-grader got straight A’s in elementary school and had just been awarded a good citizenship award.

“Our baby wanted to be a lawyer; she wanted to make a difference,” her mother, Kimberly Rubio, told The New York Times. “Please make sure she makes one now.”

Kimberly Rubio said the family had been contacted by Gov. Greg Abbott’s office but declined to meet with him.

“My first thought was, ‘My Lexi doesn’t even like him,’” she said. “She was really little, but we talked about this stuff at home.”

Alithia Ramirez, 10

Credit: Alithia Ramirez’s family via REUTERS

Alithia loved to draw. She had submitted a drawing to Doodle for Google, her father, Ryan Ramirez, told KSAT-TV. She shared her love for art and soccer with her best friend, Nico Escalante, who was struck and killed by a car in Grand Prairie last year.

Alithia tried to use artwork to provide solace to Nico’s parents.

“I never imagined that this little girl would be mature enough to say, ‘Hey, you know what, I want to keep in touch. I want to check in. I want to make [you a] painting and bring a smile to your face,’” Fernanda Sedeno, Nico’s mom, told CBS. “That’s what I loved about her, and that shows how pure and kind her heart was.”

She sent a drawing of him sketching in heaven while she was drawing on earth.

“I made a drawing for you and the family to know that our friendship was special and that he will always be by my side,” Alithia wrote in a message to Nico’s parents.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

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