Although Limones suffered no physical injuries, he said he was exhausted and wracked with guilt that he could do nothing to stop the bloodshed. He spent hours crying or praying, sometimes both at the same time.
Still, Limones has been trying to find the words to appease his part of a heavily Hispanic town of 16,000 that is sad, confused and raw with emotion nearly two weeks after the massacre. Satan has confused and hurt, he says, but the faithful have a defense.
“Church, you are armed by this,” he said holding a Bible. It was Limones’ first sermon since the murder; he was too busy with work at the funeral home to serve last week.
Limones, who preaches in Spanish and English, has salt-and-pepper hair and a broad smile in happy times. He was animated past the congregation, which only encounters a right and left turn away from Robb Elementary School and Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home. The two sit on opposite sides of Geraldine Street, near where 18-year-old Salvador Ramos shot and wounded his grandmother in the face at home before the school was attacked.
On the morning of May 24, Limones and Cody Briseno, another funeral director at Hillcrest, heard a car crash. A gray Ford pickup truck had come to rest in a concrete ditch behind the school and across from the funeral home, and they quickly spotted a man dressed in all black next to the passenger door, according to a search warrant.
Authorities said Limones and Briseno walked towards the man but retreated when they realized he was putting a magazine in a rifle. A gunman identified as Ramos shot them multiple times.
Limones said he remembered hearing someone shout about a gun, then turning around, only to hear the “pop, pop, pop” of gunfire behind him. The shooter was about 150 feet (46 meters) from him but somehow missed him, Limones said.
Limones said he escaped as fast as he could, backing away with every shot and calling the police as soon as he could. “I was screaming, screaming 911,” he said.
But Ramos aimed the gun outside the school, then entered the building through a door that authorities say did not lock when a teacher closed it. “I’ve seen it all,” Limones said.
Inside, 19 fourth-graders were fatally injured along with two teachers as police lining the hallways waited more than an hour to confront and kill Ramos. While nagging questions remain over the police response and exactly what happened at the school, the funerals for the victims began last week, with Hillcrest leading five.
So, despite his contact with the killer, Limones resumed his work at the family funeral home, which is small and quickly overwhelmed. He appealed for donations, including tissues and cleaning supplies, and enlisted the help of undertakers from outside Uvalde.
Jason Horn, a volunteer funeral director from Longview, Texas, described working in shifts with others at Hillcrest to prepare young victims for burial.
“We had five cases which were extremely difficult cases, and the five families were able to see their babies, and they all decided to go ahead with open caskets,” he said in a video. on effort. Simply compiling obituaries was time-consuming: accounts and pictures of the dead made up the bulk of the three-page Thursday edition of the Uvalde Leader-News.
Robb Elementary’s luckiest victims recover. Fourth-grade teacher Arnulfo Reyes, who was hospitalized with gunshot wounds, posted a public message on social media last week thanking his friends for their prayers and love.
“I have a long way to go, but I know I will get through this. My thoughts and prayers are with the families who continue to mourn their loved ones,” said Reyes, who runs a small plant and gift shop when she is not teaching.
Others face a mix of emotions. After a school board meeting on Friday night, Angela Turner, the aunt of shooting victim Maranda Mathis, shook with anger as she spoke about the effect the shooting had on her family.
“I have a fourth year student who was in the next room who is terrified. My niece passed away. I have a 6-year-old child who just said to me, “I don’t want to go to school”. Why be shot? I have one who goes to college. I have a third grader,” Turner said. “We want answers on where the security is going to take place. It was all just a joke. I am so disappointed in our school district.
Another mother, Dawn Poitevent, said her 7-year-old son, who was due to transfer to Robb Elementary next year, is now afraid of school and wants to stay on his current campus.
“What he knows now is that if he goes to another school, he’ll get shot by a bad guy,” she said.
It’s unclear where Poitevent’s son could end up, but it won’t be at Robb, who Superintendent Hal Harrell says won’t reopen.
In his sermon, Limones said he believed the victims were in a better place and he recounted the hundreds of people who came to town with donations of food, water, prayers and more. Uvalde, he says, “is surrounded by love”.
As city dwellers suffer gravely right now and search for answers, he said, they must come together. God’s justice will eventually prevail.
“You don’t think the shooter should tell our father what he did?” said Limones.