Good morning, Kerr County!
We awaken to another day where gun violence has extracted a heavy toll on all of us. Discussion about the weather seems trivial at best, but it's also a reminder that we still have to get up and do our daily work. Today's high is 87, and we will return to the 90s on Friday. Tuesday night's storm did little to solve our drought — only dropping less than a half-inch of rain.
On Today's The Lead Live!
Delayne Sigerman returns to the show after a break, and she brings with her Pastor Allen Noah to discuss the Glory Community Garden in the Doyle Community. The Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Julie Davis will give us a rundown of things to do this weekend.
Today's newsletter is sponsored by
In Uvalde, we find plenty of support from Kerr Country for a community in peril
The Garza family delivered flowers, stuffed animals and a candle for the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting. (Louis Amestoy/The Lead)
UVALDE — Around lunchtime on Tuesday, the text messages started arriving to Rev. Gini Norris Lane's phone — they were urgent. There was a shooting in Uvalde, where Norris Lane is the part-time pastor at First Presbyterian Church.
The text messages, and the phone calls, just got worse. Norris Lane was witnessing an unimaginable tragedy unfolding before her. She is only a part-time worker in Uvalde, but it was clear on Wednesday that the community has her heart full-time.
"They're devastated," said Norris Lane, a Kerrville resident who makes the 68-mile drive to Kerrville three to four times per week.
On Wednesday, with a bizarre moment of political theater to add to the daze, Tuesday's mass shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead came into sharper focus — as did the worldwide response.
In just three hours on Wednesday morning, the Kerrville-based Community Foundation of the Hill Country received more than $100,000 in donations. Other communities, including those led online and by celebrities, raised millions more for a community that seemed to be clinging to each other a little bit more.
Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers place flowers on the monument sign at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. (Louis Amestoy/The Lead)
However, no matter the support, the theatrics or the outpouring it doesn't change the fact that an entire classroom of children — primarily fourth graders — are dead just three days ahead of their last day of school. It doesn't change the fact that 17 people were injured, including three police officers who met the 18-year-old gunman head-on but still couldn't stop him, and it certainly couldn't change the fact that Uvalde will become another symbol of rampant gun violence.
At Robb Elementary, the site of Tuesday's unspeakable carnage, Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers received bouquets of flowers, stuffed animals, and balloons placed on the school's main sign — a shrine to what happened here.
"It's the gun law," said Robb Elementary School parent Crystal Garza, whose third-grade daughter Axaryie Luna heard the gunfire but never saw the aftermath of the shooting. "I blame it on the gun law."
The gun law Garza referred to is the state's constitutional carry provision that allows just about anyone to buy a gun. In the case of the 18-year-old suspect, he purchased two AR-15-styled guns, believed to be manufactured by Georgia-based Daniel Defense. The company's marketing says the rifles are popular with the military and law enforcement.
The suspect made several threats on Facebook before shooting his grandmother in the face and fleeing his home. However, the grandmother was able to call the police. The suspect threatened to shoot up a school, and when he arrived at Robb Elementary School, police may have been waiting or coming. A gunfight ensued and the suspect fled into the campus, where he killed the children and two teachers before barricading himself inside.
Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers accept bouquets of flowers from Uvalde residents on Wednesday (Louis Amestoy/The Lead)
What's not clear is the length of time between the gunman's initial attack — believed to be at 11:32 a.m. — and when he was shot and killed.
Earlier in the day, the debate about guns erupted into a shouting match between Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke and those on the stage at SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
"This is on you," O'Rourke told Abbott. Patrick and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz went on the attack.
"Sit down; you're an embarassment," Cruz said. Then things got really heated as O'Rourke persisted.
Off-camera, you can hear someone saying, "he needs to get his ass out of here, this isn't the place to talk this over."
O'Rourke said, "this is totally predictable."
Another person can be heard saying to O'Rourke, "you're a sick son of a bitch to make this a political issue."
But O'Rourke's outburst came after Abbott said mental health was a likely cause of the shooting.
"I asked the sheriff and others an open-ended question," Abbott said. "And got the same answer from the sheriff, as well as from the mayor of Uvalde; the question was what is the problem here? And they were straightforward and emphatic. They said we have a problem with mental health and illness in this community."
MSNBC's Ali Velshi interviews Democratic Attorney General candidate Rochelle Garza.
The suspected shooter's mental health will be a well-discussed topic in the months to come, but the shooting shattered Uvalde's collective mental well-being. The political ramifications are clear — the gun debate is not over.
Attorney General Ken Paxton said more teachers need to be trained to handle guns, while his opponent in the November election, Rochelle Garza, said that was ridiculous.
"I grew up in a family of public school teachers; I have a two-month-old daughter, and I'm concerned about sending her to school if the teachers are armed," said Garza, who won Tuesday night's Democratic runoff. "I don't think that's the real solution."
Back at First Presbyterian Church, Norris Lane walked through the pews and warmly hugged congregants, including her friend Fred Gamble, a familiar and reassuring presence to many in the Presbyterian Church.
Gamble, who works at the Presbyterian Church-owned Mo-Ranch, drove down from Kerrville to attend Wednesday night's service.
"I had to be here," Gamble said before trailing off into tears.
Natarsha Sanders, another Kerrville resident and fixture in Kerr County's faith community, said she came down to assist Norris Lane, who was dealing with the trauma of at least one church family losing a 10-year-old daughter in the shooting.
"People are shocked," Sanders said. "What just happened tonight is a moment of public grief."
But it was a grief that extended beyond Uvalde because nearly half of the people attending the church service were from Kerr County. Many with connections to Schreiner University and Mo-Ranch.
At the school site, swamped by national and international media, residents trickled through the miles of cords and cables and ducked some patrolling chickens to drop off the flowers.
Once again, we turn to Crystal Garza, now faced with the reality of whether she will send her child back to Robb Elementary School.
"I'm thinking about it," Garza said about homeschooling her daughter and son in the future. "I'm researching it."
The victims we know about
Nevaeh Bravo, 10
Makenna Lee Elrod, 10
Alithia Ramirez, 10
Jailah Nicole Silguero, 10
Jayce Luevanos, 10
Xavier Javier Lopez, 10
Ellie Garcia, 9
Tess Marie Mata, 10
Alexandria “Lexi” Aniyah Rubio, 10
Eliahana “Elijah” Cruz Torres, 10
Jose Flores, 10
Amerie Jo Garza, 10
Uziyah Garcia, 8
Rogelio Torres, 10
Teachers — Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia
How to donate:
The Kerrville Folk Festival begins its run today
After two years of waiting, the fans of the Kerrville Folk Festival are ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the iconic event in grand style — together.
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the Folk Festival was postponed, moved and reduced in size. This year, the festival returns to its 18-day schedule bridging May and June, and everyone from the campers and the concert-goers to the musicians is happy and ready.
"We really consider it back to normal," said Mary Muse, who oversees the famed festival, which got its start in 1972.
Being back to normal means relaxing the COVID-19 restrictions, although there are still rules to help contain the spread of the virus. Last year's show was scaled down, but it's back to performances in the Kennedy Outdoor Amphitheater this year, where crowds of 3,000 or more can enjoy the music.
"We're just trusting that people have figured out how to be safe and the other thing that we know is the people who are coming out to the festival tend to be very loving and very considerate and so we believe that you know, people will be safe and be vaccinated or be tested," Muse said.
And they are expected to come out in significant numbers, especially with a powerful lineup that starts tonight with Vance Gilbert, Teri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Jackie Venson. Throughout the show, some headliners mix the festival's legacy with the promise of the future.
Starting at 7 p.m., Kennedy Outdoor Theater
- Vance Gilbert
- Teri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines
- Ray Wylie Hubbard
- Jackie Venson
More events today
- Southwest Gourd Show — Kerrville Arts and Cultural Center, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information: https://www.kacckerrville.com The details: See some of the finest examples of gourd-based art and uses during this unique exhibit that runs through July 9.
- The Collectors Edition — Joanne Marie and Me Wine Bar, Ingram, 6 p.m. Information: (936) 554-8326