- Tiffany Wertheimer
- BBC News
“We have a wonderful year ahead of us!”
This sweet and simple phrase, written by the fourth grade teacher Eva Mireles at the beginning of the school year, now arouses many emotions.
This Thursday, the last day of school, she and her fellow teacher Irma Garcia they should be putting things away from their shared classroom at Robb Elementary School in the small town of Uvalde, Texas.
They should be getting ready for summer vacation.
But that’s not the case: Their families are making arrangements for their funerals, after both were shot in a shootout in which 19 of his little students also died.
In the days since Tuesday’s attack, Mireles and Garcia have been praised for trying to protect children during the massacre.
The police found Garcia “protecting the children with his arms almost until his last breath,” his nephew John Martinez told the newspaper. The New York Times.
“She sacrificed herself protecting the children in her classroom. She was a hero,” she wrote on a fundraising page she has opened for the family.
Just two days later, his family suffered another tragedy, as Professor Garcia’s husband, Joe Garcia, died of a heart attack. Martinez says that he “died from grief.”
“Fun, Laughter and Love”
García and Mireles had formed a teaching team for five years. Between the two of them they had 40 years of experience.
A photo taken last month shows the two in their classroom watching students work on electronic tablets.
“Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia were two of the best teachers Uvalde has ever known,” tweeted Natalie Arias, an education specialist who lives in that Texas town.
“His classroom was full of fun, development, laughter, teamwork and most of all, love.”
While the community is still grieving, there is also anger that yet another mass shooting has occurred at a school in the United States.
In Texas it is legal to buy a gun for those over 18 years old and, according to US media, the attacker bought his – two AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles and 375 rounds of ammunition – the day after his 18th birthday.
“I am furious that these shootings continue, these children are innocent, rifles should not be easily accessible to everyone,” Eva Mireles’ aunt, Lydia Martinez Delgado, said in a statement.
“This is my hometown, a small community of less than 20,000 people. I never imagined this would happen, especially to my loved ones,” he wrote.
Mireles’ husband, Rubén Ruiz, is a school police officer. Two months ago, he held an active shooter drill, which is common in US schools, at the Uvalde school.
Little did he know that just a few weeks later, his own wife would be the victim of one.
The newspaper The Washington Post says Ruiz ran to Robb Elementary when he heard about the shooting. Other policemen had to stop him while he desperately tried to find his wife.
At least 185 children, educators and others have been killed in attacks on schools Americans since the Columbine High massacre in 1999, according to a count in the same newspaper.
After so many incidents, even there is a monument in the state of Kansas dedicated to “fallen educators” which honors “those who lost their lives in the line of duty”.
Those words, more familiar to the military, are used here to describe the slain teachers. Now there are two more names to inscribe on the wall of victims to remember.
A teacher for 17 years, Mireles described her love of running and hiking in a short biography posted on the school district’s website.
She also said she had “a supportive, fun, loving family” made up of her husband, college graduate daughter, and “three furry friends.”
Her daughter, Adalynn Ruiz, wrote a heartbreaking tribute to her “sweet mommy” on Twitter.
“I’m so happy that people know your name and that beautiful face of yours and know what a hero she is like,” she said.
“Eva Mireles, a 4th grade teacher… who selflessly stood in front of her students to save their lives.”
Mireles had training in special education. Audrey Garcia, the mother of a student, Gabby, remembers her for “going above and beyond” her duty as a teacher.
“She was a beautiful person and dedicated teacher. She believed in Gabby and did her best to teach her,” Garcia wrote on Twitter.
A few years ago, schools in the Uvalde area began integrating children with disabilities into regular classrooms. Mireles was one of the teachers who taught these students.
Garcia was a teacher with 23 years of experience at Robb Elementary. She was the teacher of the year in 2019.
“I am so excited to start this new school year!” she wrote in her bio on the district’s website.
Authorities told his family that a police friend saw Garcia trying to shield his students from gunfire.
“I want her to be remembered as someone who sacrificed her life and risked her life for her students,” John Martinez, her nephew, told The Washington Post.
“They weren’t just her students. They were her children, and she risked her life, lost her life, to protect them. That’s the kind of person she was.”
Garcia was married with four children, two boys and two girls, ages 12 to 23. Her Facebook page is an album of family memories and pride for her children.
“Thank you Jesus for my amazing husband and babies,” she captioned a photo from a family fishing trip.
The teacher’s social networks also show her dedication to her career and students.
In a post showing certificates from a teaching course, Garcia wrote, “I learned so many new ways to challenge my future students to be independent learners.”
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