Around the same time last year, some families were still waiting to find out if their loved ones were among the dead or injured.
Although city officials had asked the public to let residents grieve in private, the families of several victims invited others to come and honor their loved ones and remember the goodness of their short lives.
Activities throughout the day marked the tragedy but also celebrated the lives of the victims.
Julián Moreno stopped by Robb Elementary School earlier in the day to view the 21-cross memorial, including one for his great-granddaughter, Alexandra “Lexi” Rubio.
A year ago, Moreno, 81, had been watering her plants and chatting with her neighbor, dismissing the loud banging they heard as a roof gun and the clang as a car crash. Two men then ran downstairs, yelling “someone’s shooting Robb at us!”
“From the moment I woke up this morning, I knew, it was a sad and painful reminder, that it was a year ago that we lost her,” Moreno said.
A musical ‘hug’
In the town square, a mariachi group dressed in their usual suits or black suits, performed three songs in the town square, including “Amazing Grace” and “Amor Eterno,” a classic Spanish-language ballad often performed in the funerals. The music from their instruments was soon combined with sobs and tears from the onlookers.
“If we could play every day to help and it would help, we would,” said Anthony Medrano, who had organized a larger group to play in the plaza shortly after last year’s tragedy and had called for others to participate. join him on wednesday. He told NBC News the intention was to give families musical hugs.
After the marachis played the songs, Medrano stopped and pondered each cross that surrounded the fountain and the pond in which it sits, becoming emotional at points.
Some of those who arrived in Uvalde made quick stops in the town square, where the crosses became the anchor for the pains of the visitors expressed in white roses, stuffed animals and doodles on homemade cards. Several cameras and media canopies were also in the square, but reporters largely kept their distance.
The families of the victims continue to hold law enforcement accountable for waiting more than an hour to confront the gunman while their children were inside the school and a child and a teacher called for help.
Arnulfo Reyes, a teacher who survived the shooting but lost 11 of the children he taught in Robb, is still suffering from injuries from the massacre. He led a protest against gun violence in the square around noon, standing on the sidewalk with others holding large orange flags, T-shirts and signs urging an end to gun violence.
He was joined by Uvalde’s only pediatrician, Dr. Roy Guerrero, who described the horror of treating several of the children after the massacre; five children he treated after the shooting died that day, including four of his regular patients.
A year later, Guerrero said he is even more angry and upset “because nothing has been done yet.” He said that he too is angry to see the school still standing.
The HEB grocery store in Uvalde handed out little teddy bears wearing T-shirts that said Uvalde Strong over the HEB logo.
Joe Garcia, husband of Irma Garcia, died of a heart attack two days after the shooting and is often referred to as the 22nd victim. Some say he died of a broken heart. He was an employee of HEB.
President Joe Biden stood in front of 21 candles at the base of the White House Grand Staircase Wednesday afternoon to mark the anniversary. He said the Uvalde families begged him to “do something.”
“Too many everyday places have been turned into death camps in communities across America,” Biden said.
Moreno, a retired pastor from First Baptist Church, said that since his granddaughter Lexi was killed, prayer and reading the Bible help him get through each day. Her faith teaches him that he will be with her again one day, he said.