Two teachers in El Paso, Texas, who put out a call for people to send postcards to their students after a mass shooting at a local Walmart, have been inundated with more than 1,000 cards and counting.
“It has been a very humbling experience to receive such an outpouring of love and kindness from everyone,” Teresa Garrett, a fourth-grade teacher at Tom Lea Elementary School, told “Good Morning America.”
"We’re just so blessed and overwhelmed and happy with the response," said Elvira Flores, a fourth-grade teacher at Hillside Elementary School. "The students’ reactions are priceless."
Flores, an El Paso teacher for the past 20 years, decided to post a request on Facebook for cards for her students after feeling "sad and in disbelief" after a gunman opened at the Walmart on Aug. 3, killing 22 people and injuring more than two dozen others.
The gunman allegedly targeted the Walmart in El Paso, which sits near the U.S. border with Mexico, because it is frequented by Mexicans who come there to shop, according to police.
"The following day [after posting on Facebook] was going to be our first day of school and I thought, I don’t know [my students] yet but I know they need to hear this message, as opposed to the message of the man who came to our city," she said. "We heard his message. I wanted them to hear the voices of other people who love them."
Flores posted the request in a closed teachers' group on Facebook right before students returned to school on Aug. 12.
Garrett had meanwhile also been trying to think of ways to help the El Paso community. She said that when she saw Flores' post, she asked that her name and school address be included too.
“We are teachers in El Paso. We would like to know if anyone is interested in sending us postcards to help our students know there is plenty of good in the world,” the post read. “As teachers, we may only be able to say so much. We think concrete messages of support would help us calm some fears. Any thoughts?”
The post was quickly shared more than 1,000 times, according to Garrett.
“On Monday we took the addresses out and asked everyone to message us for the address and by Tuesday we took it down as we were overwhelmed by the response,” she said. “After we breathed and discussed it, we decided to go forward with the project.”
The teachers then began telling their students about what strangers were sending them, which included not just postcards but t-shirts, books, school supplies and even a football signed by the Notre Dame football team.
"One card had a fire truck on it and a student was so excited because he wants to be a fireman and he started asking all these questions about becoming one," Flores said. "Another girl whose dad was actually there [at the shooting[, she just smiled at her card."
Garrett is having her students deliver the items to other classrooms and said they “loved doing this act of kindness and paying it forward.”
Because of the overwhelming response to their request, Flores and Garrett plan to distribute the gifts and postcards they’ve received to other schools in the district of around 57,000 students.
“We are a family,” Garrett said. “To be honest, El Paso is a family. We may be large but as our Texas Pledge says, ‘We are one and indivisible.’”
The support for students in El Paso in the form of postcards and gifts is indicative of the support the community has felt as a whole, according to Melissa Martinez, a spokesperson for the El Paso Independent School District.
“I think people have just really opened up their hearts, whether they are here locally or from afar,” she said. “What the teachers experienced is really just indicative of what the community has experienced, an outpouring love and support.”
Flores said she wants the people sending postcards and gifts to El Paso students to know that "their message is being heard."
"I know that we won’t be able to respond to all of them but it’s made a huge difference for our community," she said. "I honestly believe there’s so much more good out there [than bad]."