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Texas shooting victims: 'They were sweet kids and lovable'

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Composite image of the victims

Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in a shooting on Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

The children who died were aged between seven and 10. Some of them had just received awards for great school work.

One victim was a 10-year-old boy who loved to dance. Another was a girl who died while trying to call the police.

It is the deadliest shooting at a US elementary school since 20 children and six adults died at Sandy Hook school a decade ago.

There were two pairs of cousins among the children killed in the attack.

'A bright light in everyone's life'

Some parents were at the school hours before the shooting, watching with pride as their children held up their honour roll certificates at an awards ceremony. Hours later, they were back there.

One of them was Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, in the fourth grade, who had earned an A certificate.

"We told her we loved her and would pick her up after school," her mother Kimberly wrote on Facebook. "We had no idea this was goodbye."

Her cousin, meanwhile, described her as a "bright light in everyone's life".

Image source, Reuters
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Alexandria Aniyah Rubio

Tributes poured in on social media for Ellie Garcia, 10. Her father Steven said his daughter was "a doll and the happiest ever".

"I was gonna DJ for her at her party like she wanted me too [sic]!!!" he wrote.

"Not only was she my little cousin, she was also my daughter's age," Eli Ruiz wrote. "Remember the day of my dad's funeral Steven Garcia gave me a big tight hug, I will be doing the same for him."

Ellie also played on a local basketball team and resident Erica Mena posted pictures of them.

"Ellie was our hype girl and the heart of the team, she never missed a practice and was the loudest when it came to cheering for her team!"

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Ellie Garcia

Amerie Jo Garza was one of the first children to be confirmed dead. She had celebrated her 10th birthday just two weeks ago, and was shot while trying to call emergency services, her grandmother Berlinda Irene Arreola told The Daily Beast.

Amerie was "super-outgoing" and a "teacher's pet", she added.

A family member wrote on Facebook: "Please don't take a second for granted. Hug your family. Tell them you love them."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Amerie Jo Garza

Xavier Javier Lopez, aged 10, was remembered as a "sweet, playful" boy by his cousin, 54-year-old Lisa Garza.

Speaking to the BBC, Ms Garza said she and her family were devastated when they learnt of his death.

She saw Xavier over Easter and said he seemed so happy to be enjoying the holidays with his family.

Xavier loved to dance, she said, and was an avid user of TikTok.

Ms Garza added she had other cousins studying at the same school, some of whom were injured but survived. One of them was being treated at a hospital in San Antonio, she said.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Xavier Lopez

Jailah Nicole Silguero's mother said in a Facebook post that she was heartbroken. "Fly high baby," Veronica Luevanos wrote.

The girl's grandmother Linda Gonzales, told the Daily Beast she didn't want to go to school that day and had asked to stay at home, but her mother had insisted that she go as the end of the term was close.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Jailah Silguero

Jailah's cousin Jayce Carmelo Luevanos also died in the shooting.

Ms Gonzales added that both children had recently mourned the loss of their grandfather, Veronica's father.

"I told Veronica last night, 'Just look at it as your daddy taking your baby with him.'" she said.

"They were just so sweet," she added. "They were sweet kids and lovable. What can you say about little innocent kids?"

She said Jayce loved to make people laugh, and Jailah loved to dance and was learning to record Tik Tok videos.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Jayce Carmelo Luevanos

Another pair of cousins died in the shooting.

Jackie Cazares and Annabelle Guadalupe Rodriguez, both aged 10, were in the same classroom when the gunman attacked.

Jackie was described as the more outgoing of the two. Her aunt Polly Flores told the New York Times she had recently celebrated her first communion.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Jackie Cazares

"She always had to be the centre of attention," she added.

Jackie's father Jacinto wrote on Facebook: "We're devastated in ways, I hope no one ever goes thru. Taken out of arms and lives, in this freaking cowardly way, so young, so innocent, full of life and love. It hurts us to our souls."

Annabelle was quieter and an honour roll student, Ms Flores said.

"My little sister didn't make it she's no longer with us my poor sweet little girl," her sister Lidia Anthony Luna wrote on Facebook.

"Why god why these sweet babies who didn't deserve this who were all happy for summer vacation."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Annabelle Rodriguez

Fourth-grader Tess Marie Mata was named by her sister Faith, who described her younger sibling as a "precious angel".

"I'm confused because how can something like this happen to my sweet, caring, and beautiful sister, and I'm angry because a coward took you from us," she wrote on Facebook.

"Tessy mom, dad, and I won't be the same without you but we are comforted knowing you are waiting for us up in heaven and have a spot for us. We have one sassy guardian angel that I know is going to protect our family."

Image source, Reuters
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Tess Mata

The father of Layla Salazar, 10, described her to AP as a keen swimmer and a "whole lot of fun".

He said she had won six races at the school's field day. He also mentioned that they sang along to the Guns N' Roses song Sweet Child O' Mine in the car every morning.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Layla Salazar

A relative of Makenna Lee Elrod posted that she was among the victims - after Makenna's father said his daughter was missing.

Later Pilar Newberry, a family friend, posted on Facebook about Makenna's friendship with her daughter Chloe, saying that her heart was "shattered".

"Just a few weeks ago she got a friendship bracelet from her at the ballpark and she wears it everyday!" she said.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Makenna Lee Elrod

Uziyah Garcia, 8, was remembered by his grandfather, Manny Renfro, as the "sweetest little boy that I've ever known".

Mr Renfro recalled the last time he had seen his grandson during the school holidays, saying that they had practised football passes together.

"Such a fast little boy and he could catch a ball so good," Mr Renfro said. "There were certain plays that I would call that he would remember and he would do it exactly like we practised."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Uziyah Garcia

Ten-year-old Alithia Ramirez's father posted a picture of his late daughter with angel wings on Facebook.

Ryan Ramirez told the local KSAT network Alithia loved to draw and wanted to be an artist.

She recently submitted a drawing to the "Doodle for Google" contest, he said.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Alithia Ramirez

Eliahana Cruz Torres, 10, didn't want to go to school that day, her grandfather said.

But her aunt said she was looking forward to a softball game that was due to take place.

"She was kind of nervous," she said. "She was excited because they were… going to announce the ones that made it to All-Stars.

"And she was also saying, like, 'What if I make it? I'm going to be so nervous.' And I was like, 'Girl, you got this. You're going to be good at it. You got this.' So she was excited."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Eliahana Cruz Torres

The uncle of Jose Flores, 10, told the Washington Post that Jose loved going to school and was a "very happy little boy".

"I love you and I miss you," his father Christopher Salazar posted on Facebook.

Photos of the boy in the post include one of him smiling after catching a fish.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Jose Flores

A cousin of Maite Rodriguez confirmed her death on Facebook, calling Maite a "beautiful angel".

"It is with a heavy heart I come on here on behalf of my cousin Ana who lost her sweet baby girl in yesterday's senseless shooting we are deeply saddened by the lose of this sweet smart little girl," Raquel Silva wrote.

"Keep the Coronado Rodriguez family in your prayers, this senseless act of violence hit close to home."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Maite Rodriguez

The family of Miranda Mathis, 11, shared a photo of her on Facebook with angel wings and a halo.

"My sweet baby cousin we loved u dearly," Deanna Miller wrote.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Miranda Mathis

Rojelio Torres' aunt Precious Perez said his family had waited almost 12 hours since the shooting to find out the 10-year-old was dead.

"We are devastated and heartbroken. Rojer was a very intelligent, hard-working and helpful person. He will be missed and never forgotten," she told KSAT.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Rojelio Torres

The family of Nevaeh Bravo, 10, had a similar agonising wait for news.

"It just feels like a nightmare that we cannot wake up from," cousin Austin Ayala told the Washington Post. "Her siblings have to wake up every day knowing that she's not there with them."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Nevaeh Bravo

'The worst nightmare ever'

Eva Mireles, 44, was the first teacher to be confirmed killed. Trained in bilingual and special education, she had taught fourth-grade students in the Uvalde school district for 17 years.

In a short biography posted on the school district's website, she described her love of running and hiking. She also said she had "a supportive, fun, and loving family" - her husband, her college graduate daughter and "three furry friends".

According to media reports, Ms Mireles' husband Ruben Ruiz, a police officer in the same school district, had held an active shooter drill at Uvalde High School just two months ago.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Eva Mireles

In a post on Twitter, her daughter Adalynn Ruiz described her as the "half that makes me whole" and hailed her for having "selflessly jumped in front of her students to save their lives".

"I want everything back," she said. "My heart will forever be broken."

Ms Mireles' aunt, Lydia Martinez Delgado, expressed her grief in a Facebook post, saying she was "furious that these shootings continue". Her cousin, Cristina Arizmendi Mirelez, said "it's unimaginable... the worst nightmare ever".

One grief-stricken parent paid tribute to Ms Mireles on Twitter.

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The second teacher killed in the attack was Irma Garcia, 46, who taught at Robb Elementary for 23 years. She had been nominated as a teacher of the year by her school district in 2019. She and Ms Mireles had worked together for five years.

Married for 24 years, Mrs Garcia had four children and loved barbecuing with her husband and listening to music.

Her son said a friend in law enforcement who was at the scene saw his mother shielding her students as the gunman opened fire, NBC reports.

Another family member, her nephew John, wrote on social media: "My Tia [aunt] did not make it, she sacrificed herself protecting the kids in her classroom".

"IRMA GARCIA IS HER NAME and she died a HERO. She was loved by many and will truly be missed."

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Watch: Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr condemns gun violence in the US