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Uvalde gathers in tears and prayers to mourn victims of school shooting

A girl wipes a tear off her cheek at a vigil.
Patricia Lim
Community members mourning at the vigil for the death of 19 students and 2 adults during the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 25.

The stands at the Uvalde County Fairplex were filled with community members, journalists and law enforcement officers.

It was standing room only at the Uvalde County Fairplex for a vigil remembering the 19 children and two school faculty members who were shot and killed Tuesday. Three faith leaders preached and led the mourners in prayer.

The stands — which hold about 1,400 visitors — were filled as more community members, journalists and law enforcement officers flowed into the dirt arena. The line through the doors never seemingly stopped.

Volunteers offered free water and soda as people walked inside. Angel Alarcon with Mission Point Church in San Antonio was one of those volunteers. He said his friend Benito Pedraza lives in Uvalde, and his son goes to the high school that was under lockdown during the shooting at Robb Elementary School.

“Yesterday, I could tell you, I just couldn't believe it,” Pedraza recounted. “I was at home lying in bed knowing that one of the kids we know is missing still. And hoping beyond hope that maybe he's still out there and just to find out earlier this morning that he was one of the casualties."

Just inside the doors more volunteers with K-9 Crisis Response offered dogs to soothe those in grief. Golden retrievers, like Joy and Abner, comforted children.

Inside the arena the faith leaders offered words of comfort.

“I’ve cried a lot. I’ve cried a lot today and yesterday,” one pastor said. “And I may cry some more.”

He read Psalm 46 from the Bible, which begins, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Another pastor read the same verse and gave a message in Spanish.

Members of the media were asked not to interview those grieving in the stands at the arena. The event, organizers said, would also not focus on politics.

“Amazing Grace” played while community members were invited to join in a moment of silence or prayer. Afterward they were encouraged to sit, pray or cry together in groups.

Even after the vigil ended, more vehicles filled with families continued to arrive at the Fairplex. The parking lot was filled as cars and trucks parked alongside the U.S. 90, and passengers walked to the arena.

Another vigil is scheduled for Sunday, May 29 at Robb Elementary.

Copyright 2022 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Bri Kirkham comes to San Antonio after living most of her life in southern Indiana. She graduated from Ball State University with degrees in journalism and telecommunications.
Paul Flahive is the accountability reporter for Texas Public Radio. He has worked in public media across the country, from Iowa City and Chicago to Anchorage and San Antonio.