What do you even say about 19 children and two teachers getting killed in a classroom?
Kids who just hours beforehand had been celebrated for making the honor roll? Who played sports and danced and sang? Who were just getting acquainted with TikTok? Who were the light of their parents' lives? And the longtime educators devoted to their jobs whose last moments were spent trying to protect their students?
All 21 victims were in the same fourth-grade room at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on the morning of May 24 when an 18-year-old gunman wearing body armor started shooting, firing off as many as several hundred rounds, according to Texas Department of Public Safety Lt. Christopher Olivarez.
Before going to the school, where at least 17 other people were injured in the attack, Olivarez said, the gunman shot his 66-year-old grandmother, whom he lived with, and she remained in critical condition at a nearby hospital.
At a news conference Wednesday, Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told reporters that the alleged perpetrator, who was shot and killed at the scene by law enforcement, purchased a semiautomatic rifle at a local sporting goods store on March 17 and purchased more than 375 rounds of ammunition the next day. Then, on March 20, McCraw said, the teen bought another semi-automatic rifle at the same store.
Olivarez said during an appearance on MSNBC that the shooter used an AR-style rifle and had no criminal history.
There have been 19 mass shootings in the United States since May 11 that, including the one in Uvalde, left at least 44 people dead, according to Gun Violence Archive statistics reported by NBC News. Uvalde is now said to be the second-deadliest shooting ever at a K-12 school in the U.S., trailing only the Dec. 14, 2012, attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 26 people—including 20 children—were killed.
The investigation is ongoing as authorities try to paint a clearer picture of how this happened, but the mourning for every life that ended at Robb Elementary has only just begun.
Here is a closer look at the 19 kids and two teachers killed on May 24, just days before the end of the school year:
"I just feel horrible that the family has to wait at this time, but there's a crime scene and there's an investigation that has to take place," he said that morning. "We wish we could've gotten the kids back to their families last night...My number one concern is just to hurry up and get them back, so they can spend time with their loved ones. And it's just heartbreaking."