‘We promise to never forget’: Texans remember Uvalde shooting, one year later
Standing in the white stone courtyard of Fort Worth’s First United Methodist Church on Wednesday night, 30 people held white candles to remember the 21 victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde.
They spoke together in a call-and-response, their voices a quiet rumble as the sun set:
“We promise to never forget.”
On May 24, 2022, a gunman entered Robb Elementary School and killed 19 children and two teachers, the deadliest school shooting in Texas history.
Compounding the tragedy, state and media investigations revealed that law enforcement botched the response to the shooting. Officers waited 77 minutes to confront the gunman. The Washington Post reports there has been little accountability in the year since the shooting.
People gathered Wednesday to mark the anniversary in cities across Texas. A church in Uvalde released butterflies. One organization held a vigil outside the governor’s mansion in Austin.
In Fort Worth, trauma therapist Janice Harris Lord issued a challenge to the vigil’s attendees: Sit for seven minutes each morning and imagine your loved one in a building with a gunman.
“Seven is gonna feel like a long time,” she said. “Seventy-seven was a much longer time for those families before they knew anything.”
A local nonprofit called A Memory Grows hosted the vigil. The organization holds gatherings for parents who have lost a child, from before birth to adulthood. It offers retreats for pregnancy loss, suicide and, as of last year, homicide.
A Memory Grows founder DeAndrea Dare planned the vigil to provide a place for people to acknowledge their pain and prevent it from festering, she said.
"There is power in remembering and honoring these children, these teachers, the families that were affected," Dare said.
And that doesn’t just apply to Uvalde.
That also relates to all the people killed in the country’s growing number of mass shootings -- including the eight people killed at an outlet mall in Allen just a few weeks ago, Dare said.
"Allen, or Buffalo, Columbine, all the places. They should not just be a number in a statistic in a news story,” Dare said. “They are people with lives, with joys, with their favorite things that they love to eat and do, and they need to be spoken of and celebrated and honored because their lives matter and their stories matter."
At the Fort Worth vigil, Dare and a colleague read the names of the victims of the Uvalde shooting, and talked about their favorite things. Tess Marie Mata, 10, loved the Astros. Eliahna Amyah Garcia, 9, was already picking out a dress for her quinceañera, even though she had years to wait.
The 9, 10, and 11-year-olds who died had lots of favorites in common: the colors pink and purple, unicorns and sunflowers, TikTok and tasty snacks.
People smiled and wept. Queen Mayhue of Fort Worth, a nurse, came to the vigil because she’s “sick and tired of being sick and tired” of gun violence.
“It just makes me realize, is it going to take those that are in Austin for their loved ones to be impacted by this in order for them to finally take a stand?" she said.
Uvalde families called on state lawmakers to raise the age to buy a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21. The 18-year-old gunman entered Robb Elementary School with a legally purchased AR-15 rifle.
After the Allen shooting, a Texas House committee unexpectedly passed a measure that would have done just that. But the bill never made it to the finish line.
Diane Ossenkop of Keller leads the Tarrant County branch of Moms Demand Action, a national group that advocates for gun safety measures like increased background checks. She knows fighting for gun restrictions in Texas is not easy. Texas lawmakers have mostly loosened gun laws.
But she dove into this work after the Robb Elementary School shooting, she said, and that’s also what keeps her going.
“The parents of Robb Elementary. The parents of Santa Fe High School. The loved ones in Allen, Texas,” Ossenkop said.
Dare sent off the crowd, asking them to carry the memory of the victims of the Uvalde shooting into their lives.
“Go out into the world. Honor them, remember them,” Dare said. “And somehow, some way, their love will also carry us into a new day, because their story isn’t over. We have a chance to now be a part of it. May that love carry you tonight."
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