'I'd no idea who she was', Uvalde local says after Meghan Markle visit
‘We had no idea who she was’: Volunteers at blood donation centre tell of shock after Meghan Markle dropped in following her visit to lay ‘peace’ roses at memorial to 21 victims of Texas school shooting
- Meghan Markle on Thursday visited Uvalde, Texas to pay tribute to the victims of the deadly shooting there
- She laid a bouquet of white roses at an impromptu memorial outside the Uvalde County Courthouse
- The flowers were laid at a cross honoring eight-year-old boy Uziyah Garcia, the youngest victim killed
- She also visited a community center hosting a blood drive to contribute food for the blood donors
- Markle did not address the press as she visited the memorial surrounded by news crews and cameras
- It’s unclear whether cameras for her Netflix production were following Markle on the visit
- Accompanying her was bodyguard Alberto Alvarez, who once handled protection for Michael Jackson
- The trip from her California home was unannounced, and comes as her own father recovers from stroke
- Markle was dressed casually, but sported a $7K Cartier Love Bracelet and Princess Diana’s $23K Cartier watch
Meghan Markle made a surprise visit to a blood centre close to the Uvalde school massacre with two crates of food and drinks for donors, volunteers revealed today, as one admitted: ‘I had no idea who she was’ and another confused her with a neighbour.
The Duchess of Sussex, 40, chartered a private jet to travel the 1,400 miles to Texas yesterday where she laid a bouquet of white ‘peace’ roses at a memorial to the 19 children and two teachers slain at Robb Elementary School by murderous maniac Salvador Ramos.
She also stopped by an Uvalde community centre hosting a blood drive to help the victims, where she toured the facility and donated food including sandwiches, snacks and pudding as well as an array of beverages.
One volunteer described how she arrived with her bodyguard Alberto Alvarez, who once handled protection for Michael Jackson, and ‘started putting ice waters in the bucket with us and laying out chips’. Wearing a mask she also posed with the staff in front of a table of Fritos, Doritos, Cheetos and Ritz crackers.
Gloria Contreras, 40, told BuzzFeed News: ‘I had no idea who she was. She just was carrying on a conversation like her and I knew each other for years. I even talked about my personal life, telling her about my son and my family and, you know, coming to Texas because she told me she was from Santa Barbara and I said, “Well, you need to come to Texas!”.’
Fellow volunteer Georjean Burnell, 46, said: ‘It’s funny, we didn’t even know it was her until after she left and now we’re so sad. I mean, to be honest, we thought she was our neighbour. She was just really sweet. She just kind of walked in with her [security] crew and started putting ice waters in the bucket with us and laying out chips for the people who were needing snacks before and after donating’. It appears that she did not donate blood herself. Another volunteer told MailOnline: ‘She did not want anybody to know who she was’.
A Sussex spokesman said that she was in Uvalde ‘in a personal capacity as a mother’ and to ‘support in person to a community experiencing unimaginable grief’.
After the blood drive and memorial visit she boarded the private jet at a nearby airport and flew back to LA. The round-trip would have cost in the region of $25,000 to $30,000.
Ms Markle did not address the press on the visit, and it was unclear whether she was accompanied by camera crews filming content for her deal with Netflix. A Netflix spokesperson is yet to respond.
Meghan Markle places a bouquet of white roses at the memorial outside Uvalde County Courthouse yesterday before she visited a blood drive centre set up to help victims of the school shooting
Her top bodyguard Alberto Alvarez (left) looked on as Markle walked around the memorial, looking at the white crosses bearing the names of the other victims
Ms Markle, who travelled without Harry, said she was there in a personal capacity and as a mother
Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, visits a memorial site in Uvalde, Texas on Thursday, to honor the victims killed in this week’s elementary school shooting
Paying her respects in Texas, Markle was dressed incognito in a simple T shirt, jeans and ballcap, but nevertheless sported on her left wrist a $6,900 Cartier Love Bracelet and Princess Diana’s $23,000 Cartier Tank Watch
On Tuesday in Uvalde, gunman Salvador Rolando Ramos, 18, perpetrated the deadliest school shooting in nearly a decade, killing 19 small children and two teachers before being shot dead by police.
Teachers Irma Garcia, 46, and Eva Mireles, 44, selflessly used their bodies to shield as many students as they could from the shooter.
‘She passed away with children in her arms trying to protect them,’ Garcia’s nephew John Martinez wrote on Twitter. ‘Those weren’t just her students, they were her kids as well.’
Markle’s visit to the small community roughly 80 miles west of San Antonio was unannounced, and came as a surprise to the town, which is still reeling in shock from the deadly tragedy.
At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Victor Escalon, the Regional Director for the Department of Public Safety South Texas, revealed that there was no armed guard on campus when the gunman arrived on Tuesday which allowed him to walk ‘unobstructed’ through an unlocked door and into the building where he slaughtered 21 people.
The duchess’ Texas trip also comes as her own father Thomas Markle, 77, recuperates under medical supervision after suffering a suspected major stroke earlier this week.
Speculation has swirled about whether she would visit his bedside in Chula Vista, California, only a few hours’ drive from the home she shares with Prince Harry in Montecito, following years of strain in her relationship with her father.
Paying her respects in Texas, Markle was dressed incognito in a simple T shirt, jeans and ballcap, but nevertheless sported on her left wrist a $6,900 Cartier Love Bracelet and Princess Diana’s $23,000 Cartier Tank Watch.
It was unclear whether Markle’s husband Prince Harry, who lives with her and their two children in Montecito, accompanied her on her journey to Texas, but he was not seen at the memorial or the community center with her.
Accompanying the duchess was the head of her security team Alberto Alvarez, who once handled protection for Michael Jackson. The bodyguard looked on from a respectful distance as Markle toured the impromptu memorial.
Approaching one of the crosses, dedicated to eight-year-old boy Uziyah Garcia, the youngest victim killed in the attack, Markle reached down with her head bowed and placed flowers.
She also walked around the memorial, looking at the white crosses bearing the names of the other victims of Tuesday’s carnage.
In another stop on her tour of mercy, Markle also swung by a community center hosting a blood drive in Uvalde, and dropped off bags of food, according to BuzzFeed News.
The quiet donation consisted of two ‘large’ bags filled with sandwiches, beverages, and desserts for blood donors, the outlet said.
Britain’s Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, places flowers as she mourns at a makeshift memorial outside Uvalde County Courthouse in Uvalde, Texas on Thursday
Britain’s Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle pays respect at a makeshift memorial outside Uvalde County Courthouse in Uvalde, Texas, on Thursday
Markle’s visit to the small community roughly 80 miles west of San Antonio was unannounced, and came as a surprise to the town, which is still reeling in shock from the deadly tragedy
As the cameras rolled, Markle made her way around the makeshift memorial to pay her respects to those killed
Markle placed a bouquet of simple white roses at the memorial site outside of the Uvalde County Courthouse
Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, leaves flowers at a memorial site for the victims killed in Uvalde
Britain’s Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle places flowers as she mourns at a makeshift memorial outside Uvalde County Courthouse in Uvalde, Texas on Thursday
Though Markle did not address the press on her visit to the memorial, the American-born duchess has previously made known her views in favor of stricter gun control laws
Though cameras and news crews surrounded the memorial on Thursday, Markle did not make any remarks to the press
Though Markle did not address the press on her visit to the memorial, the American-born duchess has previously made known her views in favor of stricter gun control laws.
In an address to the UN 2020 Girl Up Leadership Summit, Markle spoke of the need to ‘end gun violence’.
Prince Harry reportedly quit hunting and sold his prized hunting rifles worth more than $60,000 after marrying Markle, out of respect for her views on the matter.
Though cameras and news crews surrounded the memorial on Thursday, Markle did not make any remarks to the press.
President Joe Biden also plans to visit Uvalde in the coming days. He has called on lawmakers to take on America’s powerful gun-rights lobby and enact ‘common sense gun reforms.’
Members of the British royal family typically steer clear of contentious political issues in the UK, instead embracing a policy of official neutrality on the hot-button topics of the day.
But Markle has sent signals that she is willing to take a different approach since the Sussexes quit their royal duties in early 2020 and subsequently moved to California.
Last fall, she cold-called two GOP senators on their private phones in order to lobby them to vote in favor of paid parental leave.
She called Republican Senators Susan Collins from Maine and Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia, both of whom said they were shocked that Markle called out of the blue and noted that she even used her royal title to lobby for the cause.
‘This is Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex,’ Markle told a surprised Capito, who answered the call from a blocked number while driving in her car, the senator said at the time.
People drop off flowers at a makeshift memorial outside the Robb Elementary School on Thursday in Uvalde, Texas
Salvador Ramos legally purchased two AR-15 style rifles (right) including the one he used in yesterday’s attack after his 18th birthday last week. The gunman also bought more than 300 rounds of ammunition
The shooting rampage began at 11am when Ramos shot his grandmother. At 11.15am, he sent a message to a girl in Germany telling her he was on his way to ‘shoot an elementary school’. He crashed his truck at 11.30am and made his way to the school with one AR-15 rifle. At 11.32am, he bypassed at least one cop at the school entrance. He got inside, barricaded himself in a classroom and managed to stay there for up to an hour – terrorizing kids – before he was finally gunned down
The Uvalde shooting was the deadliest since 20 elementary-age children and six staff were killed at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.
A Texas law enforcement official said Thursday that the Uvalde shooter entered the elementary school building ‘unobstructed’ through a door that was apparently unlocked.
Victor Escalon, a regional director at the Texas Department of Public Safety, said the gunman did not initially encounter any law enforcement officers when he entered Robb Elementary School on Tuesday and opened fire.
Law enforcement authorities faced mounting questions and criticism Thursday over how much time elapsed before they stormed a Texas elementary school classroom and put a stop to the rampage.
Many other details about the timing of events and the police response remained murky.
The motive for the massacre remained under investigation, with authorities saying Ramos had no known criminal or mental health history.
The gunman shot his own grandmother in the face minutes before attacking the school, and his text messages indicated that he was in an argument with the 66-year-old grandma about his phone bill.
In addition to mourning the loss of the 19 students and two teachers, the Uvalde community is trying to cope with the tragedy.
Irma and Joe had been married for 24 years and the couple had four kids
Joe and Irma Garcia with one of their kids. The couple had four children and were married for 24 years
The husband of one of the teachers murdered in Tuesday’s school shooting died of a heart attack on Thursday.
Irma Garcia’s grief-stricken husband Joe died ‘of a broken heart,’ according to a GoFundMe page set up by the family.
‘I truly believe Joe died of a broken heart and losing the love of his life of more than 30 years was too much to bear,’ Irma’s cousin Debra Austin said.
The couple’s nephew tweeted that he had died of ‘grief’.
‘Please pray for our family. God have mercy on us,’ he said.
The pair were married for 24 years and had four children. It’s unclear how old the children are.
Survivors from the shooting have told how Garcia and fellow teacher Eva Mireles, died shielding them from the gunman’s bullets.
PICTURED: The 19 children and two teachers butchered in Texas elementary school shooting
Amerie Jo Garza, 10
Amerie Jo Garza (right)
Amerie Jo Garza, a fourth grader at Robb Elementary, was one of 19 students confirmed to be killed Tuesday morning by Ramos, who cops say was carrying a handgun and an AR-15 during the attack that also killed two teachers in the classroom.
Her grandmother, Berlinda Irene Arreola, said the 10-year-old was killed as she tried to phone 911 while sitting next to her best friend, who ended up ‘covered in her blood.’
Arreola said Ramos told the students and staffers inside the room, ‘You’re going to die,’ before opening fire – shooting her granddaughter dead as she tried to phone for help.
‘So the gunman went in and he told the children, ‘You’re going to die,’ Berlinda told The Daily Beast.
‘And [Amerie] had her phone and she called 911. And instead of grabbing it and breaking it or taking it from her, he shot her. She was sitting right next to her best friend. Her best friend was covered in her blood.’
Uziyah Garcia, 8
Uziyah Garcia, the youngest victim at age eight, was also killed in the attack.
The child’s family announced he was killed hours after announcing he was among the many children unaccounted for following the tragedy.
The boy’s grandfather, Manny Renfro, broke the news early Wednesday after being notified by authorities.
‘[He was] the sweetest little boy that I’ve ever known,’ Renfro said. ‘I’m not just saying that because he was my grandkid.’
Renfro recalled how Uziyah last visited him in San Angelo over spring break.
‘We started throwing the football together and I was teaching him pass patterns.
‘Such a fast little boy and he could catch a ball so good,’ the grieving grandad said.
‘There were certain plays that I would call that he would remember and he would do it exactly like we practiced.’
Makenna Elrod, 10
Makenna Lee Elrod
Makenna Elrod, 10, had also been among the missing in the chaos that followed the massacre, with her father, Brandon Elrod telling reporters at the time he feared ‘she may not be alive.’
Her death was eventually confirmed by a family friend on Wednesday. ‘It’s pretty sad what this world’s coming to,’ the girl’s father told local outlet KTRK after the shooting.
A mother of one of Makenna’s friends lamented the loss in a post to Facebook.
‘Sweet Makenna Rest in Paradise!! My heart is shattered as my daughter Chloe loved her so much!!’ the mom wrote. A relative Wednesday confirmed that the girl had been among the victims.
Xavier Lopez, 10
Xavier Lopez, 10, was the first student victim to be identified as one of Ramos’ victims.
The child’s mother, Felicha Martinez, told the Washington Post Tuesday that just hours before the massacre, the mom had been at the school to see her son participate an honor roll ceremony.
She took a picture showing her son showing off his certificate.
In the last exchange she had with the child, the mom heartbreakingly told the boy that she was proud of him and that she loved him, giving him a hug goodbye – not knowing it would be the last time she would see him alive.
‘He was funny, never serious and his smile… that smile I will never forget,’ she recalled after learning of his death from police. ‘It would always cheer anyone up.’
The boy’s cousin, Lisa Garza, 54, of Arlington, said Xavier enjoyed swimming and had been looking forward to the summer.
‘He was just a loving 10-year-old little boy, just enjoying life, not knowing that this tragedy was going to happen today,’ she said.
‘He was very bubbly, loved to dance with his brothers, his mom. This has just taken a toll on all of us.’
Amelia Sandoval, Lopez’s grandmother, said: ‘It’s just so hard… you send your kids to school thinking they are going to make it back home but they’re not.’
Eliahana Torres, 10
Eliahana Cruz Torres
Eliahana Cruz Torres, 10, had also been missing for hours until she was confirmed to be among the dead.
Adolfo Cruz, her great-grandfather, said she didn’t want to attend school the day of the shooting – but was told by her family that she had to attend.
He said he remained outside the school gates throughout the night until he leanrned of her fate from local authorities.
‘I hope she is alive,’ he said at the time.
Torres was an avid baseball player and played the sport in a local little league.
Ellie Lugo, 10
Ellie Lugo was named as a victim of Tuesday’s attack by her parents, with Steven Garcia and Jennifer Lugo confirming her death several hours after she was listed among the missing.
‘It’s hard to issue out a statement on anything right now my mind is going at 1000 miles per hour… but I do wanna send our thoughts and prayers to those who also didn’t make it home tonight!!! Our Ellie was a doll and was the happiest ever,’ Steven Lugo said Wednesday.
‘Mom and Dad love you never forget that and please try and stay by our side.’
Nevaeh Bravo, 10
Nevaeh Bravo was confirmed to be among the dead late Tuesday, after her cousin posted on social media following the shooting to ask for helping the girl.
Around 9 pm, she broke the news on Twitter.
‘Unfortunately my beautiful Nevaeh was one of the many victims from todays tragedy,’ she wrote.
Sje said the schoolchild was ‘flying high’ and asked for the family to be kept in people’s prayers
‘Our Nevaeh has been found. She is flying with the angels above. We love you Navaeh very much princess.’
‘Thank you for the support and help,’ she wrote. ‘Rest in peace my sweet girl, you didn’t deserve this.’
Bravo’s age could not immediately be confirmed.
Tess Marie Mata
Tess Marie Mata
Tess Marie Mata was also among those to perish in the attack, her sister, Faith Mata, revealed in a post to Facebook Wednesday.
‘I honestly have no words just sadness, confusion, and anger,’ she wrote.
‘I’m sad because we will never get to tag team on mom and dad again and tell each other how much we mean to each other, 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.’
Photos shared with the post showed Tess smiling in a baby photo, snuggling with a cat, doing gymnastics, flashing a peace sign, and posing in front of a large heart mural.
‘Sissy I miss you so much, I just want to hold you and tell you how pretty you are, I want to take you outside and practice softball, I want to go on one last family vacation, I want to hear your contagious laugh, and I want you to hear me tell you how much I love you,’ she wrote.
Her age could not immediately be confirmed.
Rojelio Torres, 10
Rojelio Torres, 10, was initially reported missing by his father, but on Wednesday was confirmed dead by his family.
A person who said she was the boy’s cousin wrote on Twitter: ‘It breaks my heart to say my rojelio is now with the angels I’ll forever miss you and love you my angel.’
The child’s father , Federico Torres, told Houston reporters that he was at work when he learned about the shooting and immediately raced to the school.
‘They sent us to the hospital, to the civic center, to the hospital and here again, nothing, not even in San Antonio,’ he said. ‘They don’t tell us anything, only a photo, wait, hope that everything is well.’
Nearly half a day later, cops broke the news to the boy’s family.
‘Our entire family waited almost 12 hours since the shooting to find out Rojelio Torres, my 10-year-old nephew, was killed in this tragedy,’ Torres’ aunt, Precious Perez, told KSAT. ‘We are devastated and heartbroken. Rojer was a very intelligent, hard-working and helpful person. He will be missed and never forgotten.’
Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, 10
Jayce Luevanos, 10, died in the shooting along with his ten-year-old cousin, Jailah, the child’s mother said Wednesday.
In a Facebook post, uncle Unberto Gonzalez shared photos of both kids while offering a touching tribute.
‘My babies going to miss them like crazy!!!,’ Gonzalez wrote. ‘We luv y’all so much!!! I’m just lost right now!!! Fly high my beautiful Angels!!’
Jailah Nicole Silguero, 10
Jailah Nicole Silguero
Ten-year-old Jailah Nicole Silguero was also killed in the shooting, her mother, Veronica Luevanos, tearfully revealed to Univision Wednesday.
She also lost her 10-year-old nephew Jayce to the tragedy.
She said Jailah loved to dance and film videos on TikTok.
The child reportedly also asked her mom the morning of the shooting if she could stay home from school – a request the now mourning mom rebuffed.
‘I took her to school, but she didn’t want to go. She told her father, ‘Can I stay home?” Luevanos said, noting that it was not a common occurrence for her daughter to make such a request. ‘I think she knew something would happen.’
Luevanos’ mom confirmed the loss on Facebook Wednesday.
‘Fly high my angels. We’re going to miss yall so much,’ wrote Veronica Luevanos – whose dad had died just a week earlier.
‘I’m so heart broken,’ she wrote with a photo of her daughter and nephew.
‘My baby I love u so much … fly high baby girl.’
Alithia Ramirez, 10
Fourth grader Alithia Ramirez was confirmed dead early Wednesday by her father, Ryan Ramirez, who shared a post to Facebook showing the 10-year-old with angel’s wings. He had used the same photo the previous day as he pleaded for help finding her after the massacre
He had heartbreakingly used the same photo the previous day as he desperately pleaded for help finding her after the massacre.
‘Trying to find my daughter Alithia. I called all the hospitals and nothing,’ he wrote at the time.
He also reporters during his frantic search, ‘I’m trying to find out where my baby’s at.’
Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, 10
Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez
Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, 10, was another killed by Ramos Tuesday – along with her cousin, who has yet to be identified.
Annabell’s father spent the afternoon after the shooting in frantic search for his daughter.
Speaking to KHOU11 Tuesday, he lamented at how he was at a loss as to what do, having little success with the search.
‘They’re not letting us in at the hospital right now so we don’t know where to go.’
She has since been declared to be among the dead.
Miranda Mathis, 11
Miranda Mathis, 11, was also confirmed as another casualty from the mass shooting early Wednesday, in a Facebook post by an older cousin who earlier that day had posted a desperate plea for help in locating the child.
‘My sweet baby cousin we loved u dearly,’ Deanna Miller wrote alongside a photo of the child with angel wings.
‘I’m so sorry this happen to u baby please keep my family in your prayers,’ she grieved.
Miller’s kids had also been at the school at the time of the shooting, but survived the attack.
One of her sons told her that they were ushered out of a window by staffers during the attack and subsequently ran to a nearby funeral home after ‘he heard the shooter say he was gonna kill all the kids.’
Alexandria ‘Lexi’ Aniyah Rubio, 10
Alexandria Aniyah Rubio
Alexandria Aniyah Rubio – who was better known to friends as ‘Lexi’ – was confirmed dead just before midnight on Tuesday.
The ten-year-old was shot dead just hours after posing for a photo with her parents at the school’s honor roll ceremony.
Kimberly Mata-Rubio, the girl’s mother, wrote of the loss: ‘My beautiful, smart, Alexandria Aniyah Rubio was recognized today for All-A honor roll. She also received the good citizen award. We told her we loved her and would pick her up after school. We had no idea this was goodbye.’
Maite Yuleana was another student to die in the attack that had attended the honor roll ceremony just hours before.
A cousin of the girl’s mother, Ana Rodriguez, announced the loss Wednesday.
‘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 [sic] of this sweet smart little girl…. God bless and may she R.I.P Maite Rodriguez we love you.’
Another relative shared a photo of Maite with her honor roll certificate.
Her age could not immediately be confirmed.
Jose Flores Jr, 10
Jose Flores, 10, was also killed in the shooting after attending the honor roll ceremony, where he was pictured triumphantly clutching a certificate celebrating the accomplishment.
Uncle Christopher Salazar confirmed to the Washington Post Wednesday that his 10-year-old nephew was among the dead, after sharing a tribute to the child on Facebook.
‘I love you and I miss you,’ Salazar wrote in the post.
The boy’s father described Jose to CNN as an amazing boy and big brother to his two younger siblings.
‘He was always fill of energy,’ Jose Flores Sr. said. ‘Ready to play till the night.’
He said the boy loved playing baseball and video games.
Jackie Cazares, 10
Jackie Cazares, 10, was another to be killed during the vicious attack at the elementary school.
Her father Jacinto confirmed she lost her life inside her fourth-grade classroom.
‘My baby girl has been taken away from my family and I,’ the grieving father said in an online post.
‘We’re devastated in ways I hope no one ever goes through. … It hurts us to our souls.’
Cazares said his daughter, who was with her cousin, Annabell Rodriguez, when she died, was ‘full of life and love’.
Layla Salazar, 10
The 10-year-old student was the last of the slaying victims to be identified.
Vincent Salazar told the Philadelphia Inquirer his young daughter was among those killed.
He said she was ‘a lot of fun’ and recalled how they sang along to ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by Guns ‘n’ Roses whenever he drove her to school.
Irma Garcia, 46 – fourth grade teacher
Irma Garcia, who co-taught with Mireles for the last five year, had been at Robb Elementary for 23 years.
Married to Joe for 24 years, she was a mother of four – Cristian, completing Marine boot camp; Jose, attending Texas State university University; Lyliana, a sophomore in high school; and Alysandra, a 7th grader.
‘My tia did not make it, she sacrificed herself protecting the kids in her classroom, i beg of you to keep my family including all of her family in y’all’s prayers , IRMA GARCIA IS HER NAME and she died a HERO,’ tweeted her nephew John.
‘She was loved by many and will truly be missed.’
She was nominated as teacher of the year for the 2018-19 awards, organized by Trinity University.
Eva Mireles, 44 – fourth grade teacher
Eva Mireles, a fourth grade teacher, was identified by her family as being one of the staff members shot dead. She had worked in education for 17 years.
Her husband Ruben Ruiz, a veteran detective and SWAT team member currently serving as a police officer with the school district, held regular active shooter drills for the schools – most recently at the end of March.
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