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How one artist is honoring the lives lost in Uvalde

The Uvalde community remembers and honors those lives lost a year ago in the Robb Elementary mass shooting.
How one artist is honoring the lives lost in Uvalde
Posted at 5:46 PM, May 24, 2023

Pastor Daniel Myer wants people to know he loves his hometown of Uvalde. 

"I love my people. I love my community. But we're not united," Myer said. 

When you come to Uvalde, it's impossible not to see the rallying cry — "Uvalde Strong." Crosses, signs and wreaths line the town square of this place 15,000 people call home.

Myer says, "we're not Uvalde strong. We're Uvalde divided. The families here that were not involved in May 24 tell the families, 'Get over it. Stuff like that happens.' How do you get over something like that?"

The leader of a small tabernacle of worship church is angry. He's angry that a year after the tragedy, families are still begging for answers as to why a gunman was able to kill 19 children and two teachers without action for over an hour.

"77 minutes," he said, struggling to talk through his tears. "These children, only they and God knows what they went through those 77 minutes."

When asked what he thinks will help the community heal and reconcile their differences, Pastor Myer said, "What would bring healing is when the families get answers."

SEE MORE: Searching for peace one year after mass shooting in Uvalde

But answers and closure have been hard to come by. So, Abel Ortiz, a local artist, took a different path to bring some light into the darkness.

"We call them the healing murals of Uvalde because that was the original idea. Art heals. Art persuades the heart," Ortiz said.

Ortiz spearheaded the project, helping recruit dozens of artists from around the state to immortalize the student's smiles in paintings that are larger-than-life.

He pained Eliahna "Ellie" Garcia, who was about to turn 10 the week she was killed.

"Ellie is represented as like in a baseball card format sports card because she won the championship that week before the tragedy," said Ortiz. "The uncles, the aunts, the grandfather, the grandmother, the parents, the sisters, they all painted flowers. She loved duckies. She loved putting hot sauce on everything she ate. She was a cheerleader. She loved sports. And again, she was really a child of faith. That's why I called her Jesus' All Star."

Lives were stolen in Uvalde. But for Ortiz, these murals are how the town begins to change the narrative around Uvalde — healing through art and turning tragedy to triumph.

"Some people have had concerns about being defined by the tragedy," Ortiz said. "But it's not the tragedy that defines us. It's how we respond to the tragedy that's going to define us."

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