Amerie Jo Garza woke up early, just as she did everyday. She got dressed and prepared her belongings to go to school: Homework ready, notebooks ready, folders ready. Before leaving, she kissed her little brother, Zayne, whom she adored and protected. She had made plans to play with him later that day.
She was excited because that morning she would receive another academic distinction award. She felt proud because she made her family proud. After receiving the Honor Roll award, she eagerly counted down the hours till she returned to her parents’ arms and glowingly presented them with the certificate. Sadly, she was never able to return home … alive.
An AR-15, in the hands of an 18-year-old, murdered Amerie, 18 of her peers and two of her educators. The “good guys with guns” waited an eternity in the hallway. They did not stop the bad guy and his killing machine until he had perpetrated his evil deed.
Parents, families and the whole community in Uvalde (pronounced oo-val-deh) cried in agony. They are still grieving. They have lost their precious children and teachers. Their earthly angels had flown to become angels in heaven all too soon. Nothing will heal their emotional wounds. Even time can not heal this kind of ache.
As a teacher, I feel shocked, saddened, enraged. It shouldn’t be like this. This type of malignant acts should not happen as they often happen here in our country. I believe in thoughts and prayers, but it is not enough. Thoughts and prayers must be accompanied by action. Anything other than the call to action is indifference to life and to our children. Many politicians refuse to take any reasonable measures. They have either sold their souls to Mephisto Smith-Wesson or Beelzebub Remington, or they don’t care about children’s lives and are cowards incapable of facing an evil organization that does Not Respect American lives.
This massacre has affected me deeply. I am emotional. I have cried after Red Lake, after Sandy Hook, after Marysville, after Parkland, after and after. This latest tragedy was even closer to me. Many of these students looked like the students I see every day. Many of them shared either my students’ first and last names: Layla, Rojelio, Maite, Jose, Salazar, Flores, Garcia, Torres. I cry when I read their stories, when I hear their parents and friends. Why? It shouldn’t have been like this.
I hope that an event like that never occurs in my school and our county. However, the simple thought that this has a chance to happen makes my body tremble, my heart break, and my eyes water. Why? It shouldn’t be like this.
Our children are invaluable. Our children must be treasured. We must value our children more than guns. We must treasure our children more than guns.
Alirio Estevez is an ESL teacher in Chatham County and an advocate for the Latino community.