Home Pastors Uvalde pastor recounts award ceremonies in hours before 19 students and 2 teachers at South Texas school were killed by gunman

Uvalde pastor recounts award ceremonies in hours before 19 students and 2 teachers at South Texas school were killed by gunman

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A pastor from Uvalde whose 9-year-old granddaughter was at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday recounted the joyful atmosphere at award ceremonies in the hours before the fatal shooting.

Marcela Cabralez said the children gathered in groups of four to five classes in the school cafeteria with their families present. The ceremonies were staggered throughout the morning in 30-minute intervals.

The students took the stage in front of a brown curtain adorned with white lights to receive awards for various achievements. Afterwards, each student was able to pose for photos with parents and other family members in front of backdrops set up in the cafeteria.

“It was a celebratory, joyful, happy time that morning,” Cabralez said, recalling how the school grounds were bustling with activity and excitement.

The last round of awards ceremonies was at 10:30 a.m., she said, glancing at a calendar the school had sent to parents.

Cabralez said that after each ceremony, parents have the option of picking up their children and bringing them home.

“But the kids wanted to stay,” Cabralez said. “It’s tough. I’m sure it weighs on the parents. So many things go through people’s minds.

Cabralez and her husband are pastors at Revealed Ministries of Jesus Christ in Uvalde. Born-again Christians have been ministering in the community for eight years.

At around 11:40 a.m. – less than an hour after the last group of parents would have left school – one of her daughters, who worked in the school cafeteria and the girl’s niece, called and declared that the school was going to be closed.

She said the 9-year-old girl and her third-grade class were in the cafeteria for lunch. Cabralez declined to identify her granddaughter for security reasons.

The family later discovered that the staff locked the doors and the teachers hid the children behind that same brown curtain on the stage for an hour, Cabralez said.

After talking to her daughter, she called back a funeral director whose business was across the street from the school.

“He tells me they’re shooting at the school and he got shot,” she said. The Texas Department of Public Safety later confirmed that the shooter shot him.

He was calling because some of the children had been evacuated to the funeral home and he was looking for her help.

“I said yes. I rushed there,” she recalled.

Five minutes later, she was on the site, accompanied by parents looking for news of their children.

“Being such a small community, it doesn’t take five minutes to get the word out,” she said.

The shooter had entered the back of the school, Cabralez said. This part of the building is considered the “newer” part and contains the fourth grade classrooms.

She offered her perspective on reports that the door was unlocked when the shooter entered.

“Whether we wanted to call it failing school or not, there was so much activity” that morning, she said. “It could have been a door left open for the parents at this very moment.”

The aftermath of the shooting still reverberates on Cabralez and her granddaughter.

Two days after the shooting, her granddaughter looked at her over breakfast and said, “Grandma, today would have been the last day.

“I know, Mom,” she remembers saying.

They talked about dropping boxes of juice off at the classroom on Tuesday morning in preparation for the end-of-school party.

“It’s hard for them right now,” Cabralez said of the students.

Cabralez wondered aloud if she had seen the shooter’s face during her years of ministry at Uvalde.

“I tend to think of people (like the shooter) as humans who weren’t born that way and hurt. They may have trauma,” Cabralez said. “There are things that cause mental illness, things that cause people to act that way and that has to be our priority. How can we reach out to our hurting young people? »

She said issues such as child abuse, broken homes and substance abuse were becoming a problem in Uvalde. Cabralez said she herself was in the process of adopting her granddaughter following such issues.

“I shouldn’t be raising my granddaughter,” she said. “As a society, we have to look at that.”

In addition to looking at mental health issues, Cabralez supports the idea of ​​more safety measures in schools.

But for now, she looks forward to upcoming vigils and rallies and worries about how people will talk about the shooter and how their conversation will affect the children.

“We’re their teachers, so you imagine they hear us blaming the shooter, the guy who’s ‘evil,’ and hate and unforgiveness. Can you imagine how children harbor these emotions? ” she asked. “How can we help them let go and heal from this or other things? »

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