The United States experiences so many mass shootings that reporters don’t usually linger long after the attacks. Reporters and photographers move on to other stories, while families and friends of the victims continue to mourn.
A year ago today, a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Tamir Kalifa, an Austin-based freelance photojournalist, visited Uvalde shortly after the shooting, but he kept coming back. Tamir temporarily moved to Uvalde to live alongside the families of the victims, renting a 320 square foot shipping container converted into a home.
We are devoting today’s newsletter to some of the photographs Tamir has taken over the past year and excerpts from his interviews with families.
“Grieving cycles don’t match media cycles,” Tamir told us. “We’re moving on, but families aren’t.”
Mark the holidays
Xavier “XJ” Lopez, 10, loved Christmas. He loved going to the annual Uvalde extravaganza, an event with holiday lights, decorations and music. So last Christmas — their first without XJ — his parents, Abel Lopez and Felicha Martinez, and his siblings went to pay their respects.
A children’s choir soundtrack played as they walked through the event. Then they heard a loud explosion that sounded like a gunshot – an overloaded transformer had burst. Felicha had a panic attack and collapsed on the grass.
“These days are meant to be happy,” she said later that evening. “But these are just reminders that our lives are torn apart.”
The weekend before 10-year-old Tess Mata died, she told her older sister Faith that she wanted to learn to swim. Faith was about to start her senior year at Texas State University, where students jump into a river on campus as a graduation tradition. Tess wanted to participate with her big sister.
On her graduation day this month, Faith walked with her family to the river. Then she jumped in, clutching a picture of Tess. The photo was a sweet symbol, but also a painful reminder.
“Tess looks exactly like Faith,” said Veronica Mata, their mother. “So the other day she came over and she was like, ‘I’m so sorry that you have to look at me every day and think about Tess. “”
Visit their graves
The cemetery where most of the victims are buried has become an anchor in the lives of their families and friends. They got together for birthdays and holidays at the cemetery. They mow the lawn, decorate the tombstones and lie on the lush grass that has settled.
Caitlyne Gonzales, 11, who lost many of her friends in the shooting, comes to the cemetery to visit them. On a recent party, she stopped by Jackie Cazares’ grave and played music by Taylor Swift. She sang, danced and took selfies. For a moment, it was as if they were all together again.
Demonstrations and vigils
Many parents have found purpose in activism. Brett Cross, 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia’s uncle, who was raising him like a son, spent 10 days camped outside school district offices in protest, along with other family members and supporters. They demanded that the school police be suspended for their role in the late response.
The protest ended when the district halted operations of its school police department and furloughed two officials.
Family members have also testified before state and federal lawmakers and protested beyond Uvalde. Tamir said an image of Jackie Cazares’ parents, Javier and Gloria, at an annual gun violence vigil in Washington, D.C., surrounded by other gun violence survivors, was one of the most memorable moments. most powerful he has witnessed.
“It’s important to see each of these family members as part of a national network of people intimately affected by gun violence,” he said. “He’s the one growing every day.”
You can see more pictures of Tamir here.
Tamir Kalifa contributed reporting and photography.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Show must go on
The Tony Awards will be different this year, but they will continue, after a group of playwrights convinced the striking Hollywood Writers Union don’t picket the show.
As part of the deal, the awards show will not have any scripted material. But it will feature the usual dazzling performances from this year’s musical crop. It was crucial for Broadway, which has struggled to attract audiences since the pandemic and is relying on the Tonys to generate interest.