By: Sarah Hidalgo-Cook
Editors note: I have visited Uvalde, Texas some years ago with the Rural Development Leadership Network (RDLN), a non-traditional leadership education and certification program for rural leaders. One of the leaders sent this statement about the school shooting and gave us permission to print it.
It rained all night in Uvalde (we really needed). I have decided that Jesus wept with us last night. He washed away the sadness and ugliness of our day yesterday. We at my agency, Southwest Area Rural Transit -SWART, are all well and very lucky, as we had one of our staff whose son attended Robb Elementary and was in the 4th grade. He was safe but I pray that the after effects of this tragedy is something he can overcome in time.
My husband, Kevin, is very sad this morning as I am. His grand-great nephew’s daughter Ellie was one that was killed yesterday. She was in the classroom in which the shooter entered. It took over 8 hours before he had confirmation of her death as DNA had to be used to determine who she was, as was the same with other victims.
I was born and raised in Uvalde, Texas. My home growing up, where my father still lives, is three blocks from Robb School. I walked home from Robb every day with my childhood friends. At that time, the 70’s, the school did not have security fencing or even enclosed classrooms. The classrooms were open to outside. If you walked out the door, you were stepping into the elements.
As I sat at my desk that Tuesday dealing with normal SWART issues, I heard the sirens. Our community has daily car chases and bailouts because of the illegal activity stemming from the influx of immigration, since we are thirty miles from the border with Mexico. When the realization of an active shooter at one of the schools became a reality, our minds were reeling.
The chaos continues. We are bombarded by media, state and national politicians, Hollywood, and others who do not really share our heartache. I knew only one victim personally. — Ellie Garcia, our great-grand niece. We would run into her and her family in the grocery store or see her on her parents’ Facebook videos and picture. We are heartbroken and feel so much sadness for her parents Steven & Jen, and her four sisters. I also know an aunt or uncle, grandmother or grandfather, or extended family member of the other beautiful souls who were taken too soon.
As recently as a week ago, we saw many of these young girls playing softball. We love to watch the sport, which reminds me of when our girls played. My heart aches for what they must have endured in those last moments and for what their parents and families must endure from now on. I am also angry!
“Not in my town. Not in my elementary school. Not to my people.” That is what my heart is telling me. I know that we are in for years of anguish. This is a wake-up call for our community and other rural communities everywhere. When the media is gone and we are left alone to face this nightmare, we will need to lean on each other more than ever. We will need to lean on our faith in God. Uvaldeans are my people. This is my home. We have always been resilient, but we will never, ever be the same.
Sarah Hidalgo-Cook MSCD, CCTM
Southwest Area Regional Transit District