As the sun set in this small Texas town, the community came together.
By the hundreds, they gathered at the exhibition center on the outskirts of Uvalde.
A place where families would normally gather for the rodeo was now hosting unimaginable heartbreak.
It’s often said that towns like this are tight-knit, but you can feel it here. So many people now know someone who is in so much pain.
As a violinist played Amazing Grace, it was a moment of prayer; ponder such horror, but never understand it.
Beyond hugs, how can we explain to dads like Steven Garcia why his daughter Ellie left?
We watched him enter the auditorium. One after another, his friends embraced him.
Ellie was in fourth grade. A nine-year-old girl with her life ahead of her. The second eldest of five daughters. A promising cheerleader and basketball player. Her teachers had inspired her to become one too. They died with her in the classroom.
And yet, even here, even after something like this, the political divide on guns is so stark.
Among the mourners are Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, and his Senate ally, Ted Cruz; Republican politicians who block all Democratic Party attempts to change gun laws.
The pair is not undesirable, so deep is the Second Amendment ideology here.
“There are 19 pairs of parents who will never be able to kiss their child tonight…” Senator Cruz told me.
I asked if it was time to reform gun laws.
“You know, it’s easy to be political,” he said.
“Democratic and media proposals? Inevitably when a violent psychopath murders people… if you want to stop violent crime, Democrat proposals? None of them would have stopped that,” he claimed. .
But why, I asked him, does this only happen in America? Between 2009 and 2018 there were 288 school shootings in the United States, the second highest figure was in Mexico where there were eight.
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“Why only in America? Why is this American exceptionalism so horrible? ” I asked.
“You know, I’m sorry you think American exceptionalism is awful. You have your political agenda. God loves you…” he replied.
“Senator, I just want to understand why you don’t think guns are the problem. It’s just an American problem,” I said.
He turned to walk away.
“You can’t answer that, can you?” I said.
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He turned, “Why are people from all over the world coming to America? Because it’s the freest, most prosperous, safest country on Earth. Stop being a propagandist.”
If that wasn’t blunt enough, the governor’s earlier press conference was as clear an example as any chasm in American society.
Governor Abbott did not mention gun laws. He blamed the massacre solely on the sanity of an insane individual.
And as he spoke, he was heckled by Beto O’Rourke, his Democratic rival. It was a moment of twisted clarity – where there is no middle ground, no compromise.
So the people of Uvalde left the vigil in their town that will always be remembered for one thing, until the next.
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