A week after a gunman ran into a Texas school and started his murderous rampage, the first of 21 funerals began yesterday.
However, at least one family still has not seen the body of their loved one.
Hundreds of mourners turned out for an afternoon mass to remember Amerie Jo Garza. Six pallbearers wearing white shirts and gloves carried her small casket into Sacred Heart Catholic Church, which turned away several mourners after reaching capacity.
Maite Rodriguez’s funeral was scheduled for later yesterday at one of the funeral homes in Uvalde, Texas.
The two 10-year-olds were among 19 children and two teachers killed when 18-year-old Salvador Ramos burst into a classroom on May 24 and began firing a military-style rifle.
Amerie loved purple, and Erika Santiago, her husband and their two children wore purple shirts adorned with images of the victims to Amerie’s funeral.
Ms Santiago described Amerie as “a nice little girl who smiled a lot,” and who was “so humble and charismatic but full of life”.
Ms Santiago said her 10-year-old son, Adriel, watched in horror when the first images came out on the news after the shooting and he recognised his friends Amerie and Maite.
“It affected him so much,” she said. “He told me he did not want to go to school fearing that could happen.
“He told me, ‘Mom, I just don’t feel safe.’”
Funerals will continue over the next two-and-a-half weeks.
Vincent Salazar’s 11-year-old daughter, Layla, has the last of the scheduled services – her funeral will be held on June 16.
Salazar said the family was unlikely to see Layla’s body until shortly before the funeral.
“It’s strange because usually when somebody dies, these things happen in three or four days,” Mr Salazar said.
“It’s not something that goes on this long. I understand there were other children as well, but we’re just waiting to get her back.
“That’s all we’re focused on.”
Uvalde County Justice of the Peace Eulalio ‘Lalo’ Diaz Jr said the bodies of all 21 victims were sent to the medical examiner’s office in San Antonio for post-mortem examination, which he said was standard for a major crime.
“Our thing is to have all the facts,” Mr Diaz said. “Even though there is a deceased shooter and we probably won’t have a trial, we still need to have the facts.”
He said the post-mortem examinations had been completed. He declined to discuss preliminary results and said final reports would take three to four months.
Meanwhile, Mr Diaz said, there simply was not enough space at Uvalde’s two funeral homes to keep all of the bodies, so many had been sent to out-of-town funeral homes until services near.
He said the Uvalde funeral homes were working with the families on when they can see the bodies.
“It’s mainly because of the number of victims,” Mr Diaz said, asking: “Where do you store that many people?”
Vincent Salazar said he and his family are going to as many visitations as they can to pay respects to the other victims and their families.
“Not necessarily going to the funerals because we’re still taking care of things hour by hour, day by day, here,” Mr Salazar said.
“We’ve got so much stuff going on with our own. You have to set everything up – obituaries, death certificates, funeral arrangements.
“That’s all we’re focused on right now – her, getting her back and being able to put her to rest,” Mr Salazar said of Layla. “That’s it.”
Investigators continue to seek answers about how police responded to the shooting, and the US Department of Justice is reviewing law enforcement actions.