“She was going to be someone.” Families and friends remember the victims of the Uvalde school massacre at the first funeral


By Travis Caldwell, CNN

Ten-year-old Maite Rodriguez wanted to be a marine biologist before she could say the words.

“She loved animals,” her cousin Destiny Esquivel told CNN’s Adrienne Broaddus on Monday. “She was determined. She was smart. She was going to be someone.

But last week, a gunman burst into her classroom at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, ending Maite’s life and those of 18 other students and two teachers. It is the deadliest school shooting in nearly a decade.

Family and friends gathered on Monday for a visit and rosary service for Maite. They remembered her as a charismatic girl with a bright future who also cared for and protected her younger cousins, Esquivel said, and tried to help others during the bloody slaughter.

“Her classmates said she was brave. Catching all the other students, telling them where to hide,” Esquivel said. “She’s a hero.”

The devastating loss of 21 lives has deeply hurt a South Texas community standing up for each other.

Nineteen of those interred will be interred in custom caskets provided by a Texas-based company at no cost to the families. Uvalde’s two funeral homes have also pledged to cover all expenses as further services are scheduled for Tuesday and will continue into next week.

A service was also held on Monday for Amerie Jo Garza, 10, whose father learned last week from two of his classmates that Amerie had tried to call 911 during the shooting.

“I just want people to know that she died trying to save her classmates,” Angel Garcia said Wednesday. “She just wanted to save everyone.”

The visitation room was filled with flowers and stuffed animals as family and friends gathered in remembrance, according to CNN affiliate KTRK.

Uvalde City Council announced it would postpone its Tuesday meeting, where several new members were to be sworn in.

“On Tuesday, our focus is on our families who have lost loved ones,” Mayor Don McLaughlin said in a statement Monday. “We start burying our children tomorrow, the innocent victims of last week’s murders at Robb Elementary School. The special meeting of the municipal council will not take place as planned.

Class Help Calls

One of the newest members of the city council due to be sworn in on Tuesday, school police chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, has come under fire from those who believe law enforcement should have moved more quickly to subdue or eliminate the shooter.

A timeline provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety shows the shooter was in a classroom with students for more than an hour before he was shot by a Border Patrol Tactical Response Team.

Officers responded within minutes of the suspect entering the classroom, but were pushed back by the gunman’s fire and then stationed in a hallway waiting for backup for over an hour.

At a news conference on Friday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Col. Steven McCraw confirmed that the Uvalde School District Police Chief was the official who made the decision not to rape classrooms – although McCraw did not identify Arredondo by name.

According to the timeline released by Texas DPS, multiple 911 calls were made by children inside the classroom where the shooter was located, all while police waited in the hallway.

A student told CNN his teacher, who was hit by gunfire in an adjacent classroom, texted 911 for help.

Video taken from outside the school of the incident, obtained by ABC News, includes what appears to be a dispatch audio informing officers at the scene that a child is calling 911 from a classroom.

“Say we have a kid on the line,” the dispatcher said. “The kid says he’s in the room full of victims.”

The video indicates that the police at the scene were informed that at least one child remained alive in the classrooms.

CNN was unable to independently confirm the video/audio. The source of the video is unclear or at what point in the incident the audio is heard. CNN has contacted authorities to answer questions about this audio.

Community supported by near and far

Help continues to flow in from neighbors as well as strangers.

Carlos Hernandez, whose restaurant is a mile from Robb Elementary, had handed out more than 60 family-sized platters in less than two hours to feed grieving families and neighbors Thursday.

“It’s a really tough situation, I’m just trying to show the kids that they have us as a backbone and a support system,” Hernandez told CNN. “We always deliver whether there is an incident or no incident.”

A team of emotional support dogs and their handlers have traveled to Uvalde and will be stationed in the town square this week – eight golden retrievers wear blue vests that read ‘please pet me’ .

“A lot of times after something like that, people don’t want to talk to a human,” Bonnie Fear, crisis response coordinator at Lutheran Church Charities, told CNN. “After traumatic events people don’t want to deal with people, sometimes they just want that thing that they can touch, talk about without being judged, and that’s about that simple.”

“They show unconditional love,” she added, pointing to the dogs.

Elsewhere, the El Progreso Memorial Library has become a place of healing.

On Wednesday, just a day after the shooting, children’s librarian Martha Carreon sat in front of rows of little faces, reading, singing and laughing with the children, taking them to a safe place away from school where many them became witnesses to the horror.

“We want our building to be a safe space, a refuge that is a haven of peace, calm and coolness,” Mendell Morgan, director of the El Progreso Memorial Library, told CNN.

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CNN’s Alaa Elassar, Holly Yan, Nick Watt, Joe Sutton, Aya Elamroussi, Theresa Waldrop, Amanda Watts, Virginia Langmaid, Aaron Cooper and Paula Reid contributed to this report.

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