In a uniquely American scene of grief, parishioners in a small Texas town where 19 elementary school children were fatally shot in their classroom gathered the following night in a bull riding ring under the Texan and American flags to profess their faith in Jesus—and one another .
Religious leaders, speaking alternately English and Spanish, urged the residents of Uvalde to hold on and trust in their God, even in the face of so many horrors.
“God still loves these little children,” said Tony Gruben, pastor of Baptist Temple Church. “We don’t get it, but he does.”
Wednesday night’s vigil at the Uvalde County Fairplex was a coming together and a shared act of grief and emotion as mothers of children who died in the Robb Elementary School shootings hugged their other children and family and friends cried in the stands .
In addition to the children, two teachers were killed.
Here the devastation that spawned the very worst of American culture, the gun violence that erupted in schools, churches and workplaces in sudden, senseless brutality, was laid bare.
Also unmistakably the best the United States has to offer was the sense of community that holds small towns across the country together, especially in the face of tragedy.
Hundreds, if not more, came out. They said they needed to be together at a time when such a tragedy had struck them all in one way or another given the interconnectedness of people here.
Lory Zimmerman, who taught at Uvaldes Junior High for 25 years, still lives in the city and now teaches in a neighboring county, said the vigil was about “being with everyone,” remembering how much they love their city in a moment when nothing else makes sense.
That was never to be Uvalde’s fate. how could it be
“We’re all deaf right now. Nobody knows what to think. That shouldn’t be happening in our small town,” she said. “We do active shooter drills all the time, and they’re just drills. We didn’t think it would ever be here, with us.”
Sitting in the stands directly in front of Zimmerman was one of her former students, Rebecca Taylor, who grew up in the city of 16,000. Everyone is so close in Uvalde that everyone knows someone who has been hurt, Taylor said. Her son, sitting next to her, went to school with children who had lost siblings and cousins.
It’s part of what made Tuesday, when the young victims’ names leaked out with excruciating slowness, so difficult for the whole city, who waited and mourned along with the distraught parents.
“Yesterday we were all waiting for the names,” Taylor said. “Putting that together was just heartbreaking — realizing whose grandchild it was, whose cousin it was.”
And so the Fairplex regularly broke out in tears as the pastors onstage urged the city to be there for one another in the days to come and never lose faith in God.
People responded by saying “Amen” or raising their hands in the air or bowing their heads and closing their eyes in prayer.
The pastor said he saw their anguish and unbelief, their pain and fear, their questions and fears and their anger. He said he cried that day as he thought of all the little children who lost their lives and the others who survived but have now “seen more than they were ever meant to see in their lives”.
He prayed for the “children who have seen what happened to their friends, that God will heal their little hearts, their little souls.” And he noted that over the past two days he has seen “great love” in the church in the face of evil – just what is needed.
“You can’t overcome evil with more evil,” he said. “You overcome evil with love.”
As the vigil ended, a violinist took the stage in the bullring and played “Amazing Grace.”
Afterwards, families gathered in small groups and sobbed on the shoulders.
A mother too overwhelmed to speak nevertheless shared a picture of her 10-year-old daughter Alithia being killed, wanting those around her to see who she had lost.
https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-05-25/after-devastating-shooting-the-small-texan-town-of-uvalde-gathers-to-mourn-and-remember After mass shooting, Uvalde gathers to mourn and remember