UVALDE, Texas — Father Eduardo Morales and an entire community wrapped their arms around the orphaned children of Joe and Irma Garcia during mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde, Texas, on Thursday.
“I know the families, so it's difficult," Morales said. “Don’t let your anger turn into hate. You’re angry right now... They’re among us through you all.”
Those who knew Irma Garcia called her “un amor," a loving woman. Her family said her body was found holding a student, protecting a child who was also killed inside her classroom at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, where at least 18 other students and one other teacher died Tuesday.
"They were churchgoing people, always willing to help, always seeing what they could do in the community -- not just their children," Morales said. "And I hope that we remember how giving they were."
Two days later, Irma’s husband, her high school sweetheart and husband of 24 years died of a heart attack. Friends said the grief was too much for him to bear.
"I just couldn’t believe it," Morales said. "I said, 'This can’t be happening. Tell them I’m on my way to the hospital.'"
On Wednesday night, Joe and Irma's nephew John Martinez said the family has described this week as a nightmare, that they still hadn't come to terms with losing Irma.
Joe, his nephew said, was a family man who would have done anything and everything for his four kids. Martinez added that the family believes Irma died a hero.
Now, four children -- the youngest just 13 -- are left without parents.
But their pastor and their community were there for them Thursday, including Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, who was in town as well to bless the Garcia children.
In a moving homily, Morales said the Garcia children's mother and father will always find a way to take care of them, but noted that the Garcia family will still need the community's love and support in the days, months and years to come.
“We can move on with our lives and we probably will," Morales said. "Don’t forget to call the children."