A pair of passionate educators struck when gunfire broke out inside a Texas elementary school died protecting the students they dedicated their lives to teaching.
Teachers Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia have been identified as the two adults killed in the mass shooting inside Robb Elementary School, which also claimed the lives of at least 19 children. The carnage occurred just before lunch on Tuesday inside the school, and just days before the school year was set to end.
Mireles, a bilingual special education teacher with 17 years of experience, taught fourth-graders at the school in Uvalde, located about 85 miles west of San Antonio near the Mexico border. She was identified by her aunt, Lydia Martinez Delgado, who told the New York Times that her niece died protecting her students.
She added that 44-year-old Mireles, also an avid hiker, took pride in sharing her Latino heritage with her classes. The teacher leaves behind a daughter, who recently graduated college, and a husband, who is an officer with the school district’s police force investigating the classroom carnage.
While in awe of Mireles’ bravery, Martinez Delgado said she was also left ”furious” that her niece was ever in any position of danger in the first place.
“These children are innocent. Rifles should not be easily available to all,” she told KSAT-TV. “This is my hometown a small community of less than 20,000. I never imagined this would happen, especially to loved ones.”
Mireles’ co-teacher, Irma Garcia, was also killed on Tuesday, her son, Christian Garcia, told NBC News. He said a friend in law enforcement told him Garcia appeared to be shielding students when she was struck by the gunfire. He added that he was not surprised by her heroics, given she’d spent all of her 23 years in education at Robb Elementary.
“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,” her nephew wrote in a tweet.
“She was loved by many and will truly be missed.”
Another 19 victims, all of them children ages 10 and younger, died Tuesday when suspect Salvador Ramos busted into the elementary school and opened fire. The 18-year-old shooter was wearing body armor at the time and believed to have been armed with a handgun and a rifle.
Police said that Ramos was killed, apparently by arriving officers.
As of Wednesday morning, four of the student victims have also been identified by family: 8-year-old Uziyah Garcia, as well as Xavier Javier Lopez, Amerie Jo Garza and Jose Flores, all three of them 10 years old.