A while ago, I was invited to sing my song “Alithia’s Flowers (Children of Uvalde)” at an event in Uvalde, Texas, for the one-year anniversary of the school shooting there, which took 21 lives, mostly children. I had written and released the song soon after that incident, which took place on May 24, 2022. And since that time I've been in touch with the parents of Alithia Ramirez, the 10-year-old victim whose drawing inspired my song (they kindly let me use it for the cover art).
My husband and favorite (only!) roadie, Robert Rosen, agreed to go with me, but a week or so before we were set to leave, the event was canceled, as was a second event I had signed on for. That was when I realized how much I wanted to go to Uvalde, so we went anyway.
This was a rich, emotional, sometimes difficult sojourn, and I’ve been trying to collect my thoughts and feelings about it on paper, but I’m finding this a challenging sojourn as well. So that will come later, but in the meantime here are photos—and one video (at the end)—from our several days in Uvalde.
We drove about an hour and a half from San Antonio, on Highway 90, to Uvalde on May 23.
The downtown is a small, quaint area surrounding the main square.
It includes such historic buildings as the Grand Opera House (1891).
The barber shop's slogan: “Being a barber is about taking care of the people.”
Former tailor shops house two boutiques, the Blinged Buck and Cadillac Western Wear (not sure how I missed going in).
The community has deep Mexican roots and some signs are in Spanish. The phrase “Uvalde Strong” and variations are ubiquitous.
As are remembrances of the 21 victims, 19 fourth-graders and 2 teachers, here in a store window (reflecting the outside).
But perhaps the current defining feature of the city is the collection of murals of “the 21” painted on sides of buildings. Alithia's is on the Art Lab Studios building, on what is now called Alithia's Art Alley.
Art Lab Studios posted this graphic, which also appears on T-shirts and such. It shows King Kong on the landmark water tower. One vendor said it has to do with the 2008 drought in Uvalde.
The murals grace the downtown from nearly all vantage points. We could see the portrait of Makenna Elrod Seiler, on Amy's Attic boutique, while having lunch at Rexall, a former drugstore.
Around the corner we saw the Rexall's own mural, which welcomes visitors to the “Honey Capital of the World” and features hometown luminaries Dale Evans, Matthew McConaughey, Los Palominos, and onetime Texas governor Dolph Briscoe Jr.
The city was prepared for the many media people in town for the anniversary. These signs were in various places.
Memorials surround the fountain at the town square, or plaza. People began gathering here on May 24, the anniversary.
A man and two boys laid flowers on all the memorials. In the background are murals of Nevaeh Bravo and Rojelio Torres.
The memorials are decorated with things the children liked—in Uziyah Garcia's case, Spider-Man and video games.
Mariachis came to play—most had traveled from San Antonio the year before as well.
The lyrics for a corrido, a Mexican narrative song, by Cruz Ortiz, that tells the story of May 24, 2022: “The Angels of Uvalde.”
A reporter interviewed relatives of one of the victims. Many family members wear T-shirts or jewelry with images of the loved ones they lost, and some have tattoos to commemorate them.
Despite the very sad circumstances, it was wonderful to finally meet Alithia's family. Jess and Ryan were wearing purple, Alithia's favorite color, and I happened to have on a light-purple top. Her beautiful little siblings wore pins with pictures of their sister. Bob got my guitar from our motel room, and I played the song for them there at the square.
That evening we went to the candlelight vigil for “the 21.”
Many who gathered there wore T-shirts honoring the victims (maroon is a town color)…
…In this case Eliahna Torres. Butterfly or angel wings augment some of the images.
There was a butterfly release, but the butterflies didn't take off from their little boxes, perhaps because most don't fly at night. This one settled on my sandal (uncanny the way it matched my pants).
The next day we moved from Motel 6 to this lovely guest house, the oldest structure (1881) in downtown Uvalde and just a few blocks from the plaza.
That afternoon we walked a mile or so, on Highway 83 and Geraldine Avenue, to Robb Elementary School, the site of the shooting.
Various types of memorials appear across the grounds.
This one borrows FDR's Pearl Harbor declaration to express the immense loss suffered by this community.
The two beloved teachers. The apples express such sentiments as “Thank you for believing in me.” Irma Garcia's husband, Joe Garcia, died of a heart attack two days after his wife was killed.
The school is supposed to be demolished but retains this jarring sign.
A neighborhood house with “Uvalde Strong” signs.
Another with a religious image, which are also prevalent in Uvalde.
That night Bob and I went to the square to do a video of my song, figuring the traffic noise from the bordering highways would have died down. (See video at end of post.)
I also sang the song the next day with Adam Martinez on second guitar. (His dog Addie got into the picture too.) We made a video of our performance for his local activist organization, K.A.R.M.A. Adam's son Zayon was at Robb the day of the shooting, in a second-grade classroom in a separate wing. He has continued to experience nightmares and fears about safety.
Later, when Bob and I were walking back from a Tex-Mex restaurant, we stopped in the town square.
We happened on a night (our last) of festivities.
The juxtaposition of the memorials and the rock music, potato sack race, and vendors selling trinkets was strange, but it was good to see children—and adults—having fun.
I stopped at Alithia's memorial one last time.
On our way out of town, we visited the victims' gravesites, which, like the memorials, are adorned with toys and other favorite things. Alithia, whose middle name is Haven, loved chickens and holds one in the photo on the bench.
Here's the video Bob took in the plaza:
All photos, text, and video © 2023 Mary Lyn Maiscott