May 24 will be written down in U.S. history books as another tragic mass shooting, but for local woman and mother of six, Ana Vasquez of Defiance, the events of that day will forever be a scar on her heart and more than just words on a page.
Vasquez was born and raised in Uvalde, Texas — the location where 19 children and two teachers were shot and killed at Robb Elementary School from an AR-15 by 18-year-old Salvador Ramos.
She came to Ohio in the 1990s, but life for Vasquez started back in Uvalde in 1965, at Uvalde Memorial Hospital. Her parents were from the surrounding area and came to the small town to raise a family, like many others.
It was a place that welcomed any looking for work, an agricultural center and hub of small businesses. Vasquez described it as being a tight-knit community where everyone knew each other and took care of one another.
She recalls walking to school as a child and playing at the playground with no worries in regard to her safety. Due to Uvalde being so close to the border with Mexico, there was always a strong law enforcement presence and it made her feel secure at the time.
Crime levels were low and deaths mostly caused from natural causes. There was never anything to raise an alarm, and never anything so large-scale. Which is why when she heard the news, she didn’t believe it at first.
“I thought it was a joke,” she admitted.
Vasquez and her three daughters were assisting a church through a blessing. Then, at about 2:14 p.m., the eldest of the children, Arabella, saw a notification pop up on her phone. She immediately told her mom.
Arabella is one of the few Vasquez children that grew up in Uvalde for a brief time. She attended both Anthon and Robb Elementary when the family stayed there for a few years, taking care of Ana’s elderly father.
For Arabella and Ana, two people tied to the town in ways others surrounding them weren’t, the news was nearly incomprehensible.
“I completely lost it in that moment,” Vasquez said, when she finally came to terms that it was reality. “Who did it hit? Who is it? What happened? Just thousands of questions. I wanted to take off, but I knew that I couldn’t.”
Unable to get up and go across the country, she spent the next few days trying to call her family and find out if anyone she knew was hurt.
She received confirmations that there were.
She also got in contact with her friend and family member that were teachers at the school to make sure they were okay. The friend reported that the shooter did not reach her wing of the building, but that they spent a long time waiting. It was unclear if it was for death or rescue for awhile.
As for her family member — she stayed home that day. Vasquez was very relieved to hear that, however her relation confessed to her strong feelings of guilt.
“’I’m a teacher there. I love those kids. Those are my friends. Those are my co-workers. Those were our children.’” Vasquez reiterated the feelings of the teacher.
Since this first initial period, she reported that it has gotten harder to reach out and get in contact with people.
“These are families that are being basically surrounded by media constantly for questions and stories. And so, they’re very limited in their grief right now,” she explained.
Vasquez’s father is still living in Uvalde, by himself with home care. She shared that her father could not believe that something like this could happen to the town they spent years of their lives in. At the moment, he does not feel safe and he prays that whatever is ahead in his glory years he can sustain it and not live in fear.
And Vasquez believes that that is possible. Uvalde is not a dangerous place.
For her, and for Arabella, it is a place capable of great life and joy.
When asked about what kind of things they enjoy and remember most fondly about Uvalde, Texas, the list seemed almost endless.
Movie nights at the plaza, the opera house, the Briscoe-Garner Museum, the library, piano performances, the civic center, dog shows, antique stores, a place called “the oasis” — the Vasquez family could have went on forever.
They also recall fondly the parades, the Cactus Jack festivals and all of the wild chickens that would casually run about.
For a place that holds so many good moments and has room to create many, many more, Vasquez hopes and prays that her hometown and its occupants can heal.
“Uvalde is a good town. It is a very happy, southern town. People in Uvalde love to share a piece of that pie with you.... . I keep each and every one of them in my heart and in my prayers so that, when all of this subsides, we see a better future and changes for better things,” she expressed.
For those interested, the First State Bank of Uvalde has set up an account for donations.
If people would like to contribute to the Robb School Memorial Fund, the donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 1908, Uvalde, TX 78802. Make checks payable to Robb School Memorial Fund.
Donation by online cash app, Zelle, is also a choice. Donations through Zelle can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All of this information can be found at https://www.fsbuvalde.com/. For questions, call 830-356-2273.