UVALDE, Texas, May 26 – Eulalio Diaz Jr. entered a classroom where 19 children and two teachers were shot dead a few hours ago, he looked down and saw one of his high school classmates.
Elsewhere in this hell were the bodies of fourth-graders whose parents were his friends.
As Justice of the Peace in the small Uvalde, Texas, where the shooter went to one of the most deadly school shootings in American history, Diaz had the daunting task of identifying the bodies. Because Uvalde does not have a medical examiner, Diaz has to work as a district investigator, giving him the role of diagnosing the dead.
Before entering Robb Elementary School to begin the screening process, Diaz, 49, said he had tried to prepare himself for the worst situation he could imagine.
What he saw went further.
Down in the classroom where all the victims died was the body of Irma Garcia, one of the two teachers killed.
“He was years behind me at school, at Uvalde High School. We were together in elementary school and high school,” Diaz told in his office at the Uvalde County Courthouse. “We really know who these dead are.”
When a catastrophe of this magnitude reaches such a small area, it is like throwing a large stone into a small lake – the pain seems inevitable.
“When I got home last night after identifying all the victims, I started getting messages on Facebook, realizing that I knew the parents and even the grandparents of many children,” Diaz said.
The child identification process was very complicated – “children do not carry IDs, they do not have name badges,” Diaz said.
Many bodies were in critical condition. Diaz tried to save the parents as much pain as possible, hoping to identify the murdered children with the descriptions of their parents’ school uniforms that day.
But it was not enough. The bodies had been shot several times. Texas Rangers have ordered DNA swabs for family members.
“My job is to make sure we release the body of the right person in their family,” Diaz said, with a shrill voice. “My job is to return the bodies of these children to their families.”
Diaz hopes that the reason why so many in Uvalde experience such pain – because “everyone knows everyone” – will help them to recover faster.
“We are all in so much pain. But we are all here to support each other,” he said.