How Uvalde, Texas, is mourning after massacre of teachers and young students

Investigators looked for a motive Wednesday in the elementary school shooting that killed 21 people, including 19 children, in Uvalde, Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott said the gunman had shared messages about his intentions on Facebook shortly before the attack, while calls grew in Washington and elsewhere for changing gun laws. In Uvalde, the community grieved after devastating loss. Amna Nawaz reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Investigators continue to continue to search for a motive tonight in the elementary school massacre that left 21 people dead, including 19 children, in Uvalde, Texas.

    Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the gunman shared messages about his intents on Facebook shortly before the attack. Facebook said those messages were sent privately, not publicly.

    Calls are growing here in Washington and elsewhere for changing gun laws. And, in Uvalde, residents are grieving over indescribable loss.

    Amna Nawaz is there now, and she begins our coverage.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Today, the community of Uvalde, Texas, is reeling, one day after some of its youngest members were killed by a gunman at Robb Elementary School.

  • Jarrett Hernandez, Uvalde Resident:

    This just doesn't feel real. Like, it's unbelievable.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Seventeen-year-old Jarrett Hernandez said his friends' siblings were among those killed. His little brother, a second grader, survived.

  • Jarrett Hernandez:

    He was in shock when I saw him. He's just — I have never seen him like that. I just — he was just scared.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Has he talked to you about what it was like or what he heard or saw?

  • Jarrett Hernandez:

    He told me when he was — at the moment he was at lunch, when he heard, like, when he was going back to his class, and he's — I asked him if he heard, like, anything. He just said he heard screaming and gunshots firing.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The Uvalde attack is now the nation's deadliest school shooting it since 2012, when 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Residents here are now grappling with grief rippling across this tight-knit community just 85 miles west of San Antonio.

  • Adele Martinez, Uvalde Resident:

    My heart is broken for the parents here in Uvalde. It's — never thought something like this would happen in a small town and friendly as Uvalde, where we know each other.

    And it has been a very — very bad, tragic here.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Investigators have since shared more information about the shooting and the gunman.

    Eighteen-year-old Salvador Ramos was a Uvalde resident. Authorities Ramos shot and wounded his grandmother, before driving to the elementary school, crashing nearby, and running into the building. Ramos carried one assault rifle, walked into a fourth-grade classroom, and, officials say, shot everyone in sight.

    Lt. Christopher Olivarez, Texas Department of Public Safety: What we do know, at that point, the shooter was made to able to make entry into a classroom, barricaded himself inside that classroom, and, again, just began shooting numerous children and teachers that were in that classroom, having no regard for human life.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Among the victims, Eliahna Garcia, whose aunt found out late yesterday she was killed. Like many others, her family had congregated at the Civic Center, hoping for a different outcome.

    Siria Arizmendi, Aunt of Shooting Victim: She was very happy and very outgoing, loved to dance and sing and play sports. She was big into family, enjoyed being with the family.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Also among the victims, Eliahana Cruz Torres, Xavier Lopez, Amerie Jo Garza, and cousins Annabelle Rodriguez and Jacklyn Cazares, all of whom were just 10 years old, and special education teacher Eva Mireles, who had worked in the district for 17 years, dedicating herself to children like Audrey Garcia's daughter, Gabby.

  • Audrey Garcia, Mother:

    That kind of teaching, that hands-on, doing whatever she could do to help Gabby, I mean, she — that's the kind of thing she did every day.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The gunman was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent who was in the area when reports started coming in. Authorities confirmed Ramos left one of his two assault rifles in his car. Both weapons were purchased legally just days before the shooting, Ramos even posting about the purchases on Instagram.

    His motive for targeting the school is still under investigation. The tragedy has re-sparked the debate over gun control. Tension spilled over today during a press conference in Uvalde, when Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke interrupted Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott and Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin.

  • Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas Gubernatorial Candidate:

    You're doing nothing.

  • Man:

    No. He needs to get his ass out of here. This isn't the place to talk this over.

  • Beto O’Rourke:

    This is totally predictable when you…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Man:

    Sir, you're out of line. Sir, you're out of line! Sir, you're out of line! Please leave this auditorium.

    I can't believe you're a sick son of a bitch that would come to a deal like this to make a political issue.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Meanwhile, in Washington, divisions along party lines showed on the Senate floor. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stopped short of calling for legislative action, while Majority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded votes.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.:

    It's literally sickening, sickening to consider the innocent young lives that were stolen by this pointless, senseless brutality.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    I just had heard the minority leader say he was sickened by what happened in Uvalde. Will he join us in allowing a debate and amendments to that bill that will address the gun plague in America? Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We need action.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Back in Uvalde, residents are relying on themselves and their community in this moment of shared grief.

  • Jarrett Hernandez:

    I don't want people to think Uvalde is just a scary place because of this. Like, we're just a loving community. And we just want — we just want to take care of people and just show love. And everyone's here for each other pretty much.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And that is exactly what we have seen here on the ground, people here for each other.

    The area outside of Robb Elementary School behind me has turned into a command post for federal and state investigators, trying to figure out how and why this happened.

    Meanwhile, this school is nestled right in the heart of a community that is very much still in shock, very much still in disbelief that this happened at all — Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Amna, we are learning more about this community. What is it, just 16,000 people live there. It's a farming community.

    What else are you hearing from the people who live there, Amna?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Judy, it's a remarkable thing.

    I can tell you, from the moment we have arrived, we have not met a single person who hasn't been touched by this in some way. That's how tight-knit this is. I met one woman earlier today who told me her grandson is in second grade here. He is luckily safe, but her cousin's daughter is among those who was killed.

    I met another woman who was leading her third grade son by the hand out of the Civic Center, where they're offering support and counseling services. They looked very shell-shocked, both of them. And they said: "We just wanted to come here to find his teacher. He wanted to make sure his teacher was OK."

    Look, just 600 kids went to this school. This is a town where everyone knows everyone. Even if they weren't personally impacted, people know these kids' families. They have watched them grow up for the last nine or 10 years. And now they are mourning their deaths.

    I mean, the sense of grief and loss, it is palpable here, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, as you said just now in your report, Amna, this has reignited a national conversation about guns and what to do about guns.

    Is that what people are talking about there?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Judy, here, people are very focused on each other, on healing, on helping each other.

    They're moving from site to site, offering services. One woman set up a blood drive and said they were so overwhelmed with walk-ins, they had to bring in extra trucks from San Antonio just to handle the load.

    But, look, at the end of the day, they know the world is watching. They know the questions outside will resonate here. Judy, 19 children are dead; 19 9- and 10-year-olds started their day like any other in what should have been their last week of school, and they were murdered in their classroom.

    And there's just no making sense of that, because it should not happen. This is a uniquely American problem. And Uvalde is now the latest community to feel this kind of pain — Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It is just impossible to understand.

    Amna, thank you very much.

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