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'It feels like it happened just yesterday' | Uvalde vigil marks one year since the Robb Elementary shooting

The community held a candlelight vigil Wednesday night. Residents said for the first time since the massacre, they felt a sense of healing.

UVALDE, Texas — Hundreds gathered at the Uvalde Memorial Park amphitheater Wednesday night to mark one year since the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.

The community planned a candlelight vigil to honor the 21 victims and their families.

Together, the surviving students of Room 112 and Mr. Reyes, the surviving teacher who lost all of the children in his classroom, walked on stage. They led a large crowd in the lighting of hundreds of candles.

There were tears and hugs for the small community that endured a tragedy they never thought would hit their town.

Angela Villescaz, a Uvalde resident and Founder of Fierce Madres advocacy group, wept as she left the vigil.

“It was a rough year. It was hard,” Villescaz told WFAA.

Villescaz planned to travel out of town on the one-year mark but felt she made the right decision to stay.

“I didn’t see any hope for Uvalde, but after tonight’s vigil, I don’t feel that way," Villescaz said. "It was beautiful.”

She said for the first time since May 24, 2022, she felt hope. Throughout the vigil, there was music and touching tributes dedicated to the victims and their families.

All throughout the day, visitors from near and far stopped by the memorial sites to honor the 19 children and two teachers killed. The memorial site downtown was filled with flowers and gifts, just like it was a year ago.

St. Philips Episcopal Church held a day of remembrance aimed at providing a healing space for the community. The church was open for prayer all day.

At 11:32 a.m., church leaders and the Children’s Bereavement Center released butterflies at the time when the gunman entered the school one year ago.

Then, at 12:49 p.m., a bell rang, which symbolized the time the shooter was gunned down after law enforcement waited 77 minutes to breach the classroom.

Father Mike Marsh, who rushed to the hospital on May 24, recalls watching as some of the injured victims arrived. Marsh said the tragedy left him and his community forever changed.

“The pain, it’s always there. It just never goes away,” Marsh said. “In some ways, it feels like it happened just yesterday. The feelings, the hurt, the loss are intense. Other times, it feels like it’s been a lifetime of this.”

Angie Garza and her husband, Uvalde County Commissioner Ronald Garza, felt compelled to attend events throughout the day.

“I feel so bad for the parents,” Ronald Garza said. “I think of the families, that one year today, they’re still carrying that pain.”

Steps away from his grandson Jose Flores’s cross downtown, Jorge Flores wept.

“Life without him is hard. I miss his hugs. I miss his touch,” Flores said. “The only consolation I get is he’s at least in heaven. I know he is, all the kids are. He’s an angel.”

For 77 minutes, survivor Mr. Reyes and a group of people held orange flags downtown to symbolize gun violence prevention.

Twelve months have passed, but for many, the pain hasn’t gone away.

“We’ll never go back to the way it was, but we can move forward we can begin to take responsibility and actions to shape the future we wanna have,” Marsh said.

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