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Families of Uvalde victims turn from grief to action

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

What do you say? What do you do? After the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that question is hard for many people and hardest for families of the victims. NPR's Adrian Florido has been listening to them.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: A week after burying his daughter, Amerie, who was killed at Robb Elementary, Alfred Garza came to Uvalde City Hall. He wanted to know whether town officials would consider canceling summer school because even as Garza grieves Amerie, he has a stepson who's supposed to be in class this summer.

ALFRED GARZA: He didn't feel good about going today. So his education is important, but his mental and physical health is more important to us. So we didn't send him to school today.

FLORIDO: Summer school is still on, a reminder for parents in Uvalde that life has to go on. But Garza asks, how, when this town and this town's schools no longer feel safe? Garza has a strong belief in God. And he's been relying on faith to get through the pain of losing Amerie. But he says he's not going to rely on faith alone to keep his stepson or other children in this community safe.

GARZA: It doesn't take a genius to figure out that what we're doing right now is not working and we need to change some things.

FLORIDO: Garza is working up his own plans to start fighting for change. He says he's also spoken with some of the other victims' families about what they might do next together.

GARZA: In due time, we're going to band together and fight this fight together, right? But everybody's time is going to come when they're ready. You know what I mean? I'm ready. My time is now. I'm ready to go, you know?

FLORIDO: Other parents of the shootings' victims are acting on their grief and anger, too. On Wednesday, Kimberly and Felix Rubio, whose 10-year-old daughter, Lexi, was killed at Robb, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

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KIMBERLY RUBIO: We don't want you to think of Lexi as just a number. She was intelligent, compassionate and athletic.

FLORIDO: Lexi was quiet, her mother said, and she was shy. But when she believed in something, she spoke with conviction in a firm voice.

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RUBIO: So today, we stand for Lexi. And as her voice, we demand action. We seek a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. We understand that for some reason, to some people, to people with money, to people who fund political campaigns, that guns are more important than children. So at this moment, we ask for progress.

FLORIDO: Corina Camacho is asking for accountability. Her son survived the shooting at Robb. He played dead as the gunman killed his classmates around him. He still has bullet fragments in his leg and is doing OK physically. But emotionally, Camacho says, her son has shut down.

CORINA CAMACHO: He's OK with people he knows. But with new people, he won't really want to be there.

FLORIDO: Camacho has focused her anger on law enforcement for waiting too long to enter the classroom and kill the 18-year-old gunman.

CAMACHO: I'm still, like, really mad. Like, they should have gone in there. And those kids could have survived. Some of them can at least survive. They're going to have to pay for what they did. Like, they shouldn't have waited.

FLORIDO: Camacho hired an attorney, Stephanie Sherman, who's trying to figure out who to sue. She's looking for a way around the legal protections that often shield police departments and gun-makers.

STEPHANIE SHERMAN: That's going to require a lot of legal creativity and finding the pathway to justice. And I've got lots of ideas on how I'm going to do that.

FLORIDO: She's also considering suing Uvalde's school district. But she's waiting on evidence from the ongoing official investigations. Two blocks from Robb Elementary, Lydia Salazar is sitting in her sister's backyard. Their grandnephew, Jose Flores, was killed in the shooting. Salazar says she's been thinking a lot about the need for gun control.

LYDIA SALAZAR: Because it broke my heart when I saw my niece. It broke my heart when I saw my niece falling apart for her son. Bottom line is they need to stop the weapons for these kids.

FLORIDO: Salazar's sister, Angela Cordova (ph), says she has been feeling lost. Her own son was at the school that day and escaped. And now he doesn't want to return to school. Cordova is struggling to make sense of what's happened to her family and how it'll move forward, how any of the victims' families are supposed to move forward.

ANGELA CORDOVA: I have a lot of hate and I have a lot of anger because these kids should be living their life, running around all summer, getting into the swimming pool, going to the zoo, going to water parks - going through this because of some kid that decided in his head - you know what? - I'm going to go shoot up a school.

FLORIDO: She wants to know, who's going to stand up and stop this from happening again?

Adrian Florido, NPR News, Uvalde, Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.