Memorial for Irma and José García in Uvalde, Texas. / David Ramos/ACI Prensa

Uvalde, Texas, Jun 16, 2022 / 16:25 pm (CNA).

Irma García, one of the teachers killed in the massacre at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, went to Mass every Sunday with her husband José and was concerned about how her little students were doing in school.

ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, spoke with Elia Gómez, a 77-year-old resident of Uvalde and close friend of the family, in an interview outside the elementary school where a memorial has been set up for the 21 victims of the May 24 massacre.

Gómez said she knew Irma and José “very well, a family very dear to everyone.”

“They are always willing to help others. Always treating everyone with respect,” she recalled.

On May 24, Salvador Ramos, 18, entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, about 80 miles west of San Antonio, with an AR-15 rifle and murdered 19 children and two teachers, leaving many more injured before being shot down by police.

Eighty percent of the 15,000 inhabitants of Uvalde are Hispanic, and a significant number are Catholic. At Sacred Heart, the town’s only parish, a total of 11 funerals are scheduled.

One of the teachers killed was Irma García. Her husband, José, died two days later of cardiac arrest, unable to bear the pain of his loss. According to his family, he died of a “broken heart.” The couple leaves behind four children, ages 23, 19, 15, and 13.

San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller offered the funeral Mass for the couple on June 1 at Sacred Heart Parish, the only Catholic church in Uvalde.

Elia Gómez, a close friend of Irma and Jose García in Uvalde, Texas. Irma, a teacher, was among those killed in a mass shooting on May 24. Her husband died days later of a “broken heart.”. David Ramos/ACI Prensa

Gómez said that she knew José, known as Joe, ”since his mother was pregnant with him. I saw him grow up. When he started to crawl, to walk, to go to school.”

“I‘m a close friend of that family. For years they have even been telling me that I’m their aunt,” she recalled with emotion.

“I knew Joe’s mom for years and years. I know Joe’s sister very well, his brothers,” she continued.

Gómez noted that Irma was a “very good teacher, always giving good advice to her students.”

“This shows it: She gave her life for her students.” Piecing together various accounts of what happened that day, Gómez said Irma “was the first one who confronted that boy. She spoke to him calmly and politely. She wanted to make him understand, but he wasn’t listening.”

Gómez highlighted the family’s unity, because “the two always went together as a couple. They were always in agreement with each other. And they respected each other.”

Irma and Joe, she said, “went to Mass every Sunday, right on time.”

“They were very sweet people. One felt at ease with them,” she reiterated, recalling that Irma García told each child “behave well, study, because learning (is something) no one is going to take away from you.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.