UVALDE, Texas—Just down the road and across the street from Robb Elementary School sits the funeral chapel where some of the farewells for the 21 people killed there on Tuesday will be arranged.
On Thursday afternoon, the sounds of crying and screaming could be heard as family and friends began to drop off clothing and other items to accompany the bodies stolen by a deranged gunman and a pattern of systematic mass slaughter.
Gilbert Limones, an attendant with Hillcrest Funeral Home, told The Daily Beast that part of the problem was just trying to source enough caskets and supplies to properly bury some of the 19 children who were gunned down in a single fourth-grade classroom.
“I mean, you’re never prepared for something like this,” he said while choking back tears. “Now we are having to do it so quickly. It isn’t like we are in a big city here.”
On the average year, funeral homes in Uvalde might handle six or eight arrangements for children, according to Limones. Now, over the course of only a few days, that number could double even if and when it is divided up among other funeral directors in the larger community.
“We have gotten calls from other funeral homes offering their assistance,” added Monica Saiz-Martinez, a pre-arrangement director who also works at Hillcrest. “The love and support from all over is healing and helpful in so many ways right now. It is just unbelievable.”
Employees emphasized just how glaringly different this week’s work is from anything they had ever experienced. Families of victims have been asked for DNA swabs to clarify their relationship to mangled corpses of slain children. And law-enforcement officers have told of the nightmare of their colleagues being covered in blood as they encountered a uniquely American catastrophe in a classroom for tiny kids.
“I could have never imagined this horror for one day in my life,” Saiz-Martinez told The Daily Beast, adding, “My heart breaks when I see each body come through the doors.”
Saiz-Martinez expressed the simple and modest hope that parents and families robbed of their babies and loved ones might now have a few moments to mark their losses the way they wish.
“I’m not sure where we go from here, but all I can figure is that we begin picking up the pieces, and our work provides closure,” she said.