UWALDE, Texas. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden hope to offer comfort to a city wracked with grief and anger as they meet with families affected by the Texas elementary school mass shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers.
Sunday’s visit to Uvalde is Biden’s second trip in weeks to comfort a population in mourning after a staggering loss. On May 17, he was in Buffalo, New York, to meet with families of victims and denounce white supremacy after a racist “replacement theory” shooter killed 10 blacks in a supermarket.
The shootings in Texas and New York and its aftermath have drawn attention to the nation’s deep-seated divisions and its failure to reach consensus on action to reduce gun violence.
“Evil has come to this elementary school classroom in Texas, to this grocery store in New York, to too many places where innocent people have died,” Biden said Saturday in his graduation speech at the University of Delaware. “We must stand stronger. We must stand stronger. I know we can’t ban tragedy, but we can make America safer.”
Biden was scheduled to visit a makeshift memorial outside Robb Elementary School before attending Mass at a local Catholic church. He was also scheduled to meet family members at a community center and then first responders at a local airport before returning to Washington, the White House said. No official comments were expected from him.
McKinzie Hinojosa, whose cousin Eliahana Torres was killed on Tuesday, said she respects Biden’s decision to mourn with the people of Uvalde.
“This is more than mourning,” she said. “We want to change. We want action. It continues to be something that happens over and over and over again. There is a mass shooting. It’s in the news. People are crying. Then he is gone. Nobody cares. And then it happens again. And again.”
“If I could say anything to Joe Biden, just respect our community while he’s here and I’m sure he will,” she added. “But we need change. We need to do something about it.”
The Bidens’ visit to Uvalda comes amid growing police attention to the reaction to the shooting. On Friday, officials said students and teachers repeatedly pleaded with emergency operators for help, even as a police commander ordered more than a dozen police officers to wait in a hallway. Officials said the commander believed the suspect had barricaded himself in a nearby classroom and that there was no further active attack.
The revelation sparked renewed anger and questions about whether more lives were lost due to officers not acting faster to stop the shooter, who was eventually killed by Border Patrol tactical officers.