‘I checked every hospital’: Agonizing, frantic hours for families of schoolchildren

Dozens of friends and relatives of children missing after Tuesday’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, gathered at the convention center in the middle of town.

Inside, officials took DNA samples and promised to confirm whether their children were among the 19 killed when a gunman opened fire at an elementary school. Two adults were also killed.

About 9:30 p.m., officials ushered many back inside.

Zeke Luevanos, 43, an electrical lineman, drove from Odessa to join his brother and sister, who each had a 9-year-old child still missing. He had just seen his niece and nephew last weekend, at a family memorial in Uvalde for his father, who died last week.

“They’re not doing too good,” he said of his siblings, who had already provided DNA samples. “This is a good town, a really good town. It’s just a waiting game.”

He stood under a canopy of oaks amid other relatives awaiting news.

Officials say Salvador Ramos, 18, carrying a handgun and possibly a rifle, entered Robb Elementary School in the working-class city of about 16,000 people approximately 80 miles west of San Antonio. Police officers are believed to have killed the gunman, who had been a student at a nearby high school, Abbott said.

Lisa Cazares, 25, came to the convention center after unsuccessfully calling area hospitals in search of a friend’s 11-year-old daughter.

“I checked every hospital. I hope for the best, but this is scary. Your head doesn’t want to go there,” she said as she stood in the dark parking lot awaiting news.

Cazares said her friend texted to say the girl’s class was the one the gunman attacked. “She’s terrified,” Cazares said of her friend, whose husband is a car salesman and DJ.

Cazares brought her 4-year-old daughter and husband to the convention center.

“There’s been too many of these shootings at schools. All the teachers should be able to carry, at least in a locked drawer,” she said. Her husband said the schools need more police.

Officials at the convention center told those with children still missing late Tuesday that DNA identification was likely to take two to three days, and that the bodies wouldn’t be released for eight days, said Lorinda Rios, 32, a local bail bondsman who had come to support friends with a missing child.

She said the wait for confirmation was “nerve-wracking, but some people are having hope.”

Families knew that two unidentified children wounded in the shooting were being treated at University Medical Center in San Antonio, she said. “That’s what they hope: That they’re one of the two unidentified at University and not in the [morgue] trailer over there.”

As people emerged from the convention center, a woman screamed. Other family members cried, including children.

“This is a tragedy for this to happen in such a small town,” Rios said as she walked to her car with two friends.

“This shouldn’t have happened here,” one of the friends said. “It shouldn’t happen anywhere,” said the other.

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