The Texas coroner who responded to the massacre in Uvalde has revealed that Irma Garcia, one of the two teachers slaughtered along with 19 children, had been his longtime high school classmate.
Eulalio “Lalo” Diaz Jr., the town’s justice of the peace and de facto coroner, rushed to Robb Elementary School on May 24 after 18-year-old Salvador Ramos carried out the senseless rampage.
“I walked around to the desk, and I saw pictures of her family and her behind [the desk],” Diaz told The US Sun.
“I came back and realized that was Irma,” he said, adding that he had been a year ahead of Garcia in high school.
Garcia’s husband of 24 years, Joe Garcia, later suffered a fatal heart attack after he went to lay flowers at his wife’s memorial. The family said it was brought on by the grief of his loss.
“I knew both of them, I had worked with Joe previously. Great people, and I just immediately knew [Irma] was one of the victims,” the coroner told the news outlet.
Diaz said he also knew one of the murdered kids, 10-year-old Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, the daughter of Uvalde Sheriff’s Deputy Felix Rubio.
In a previous interview with The US Sun, Diaz described the painstaking process of identifying the tiny bodies.
“I didn’t know what the scene was gonna be like but I knew the children wouldn’t have IDs or name badges so we won’t know who these kids are until we assess the process of what to do,” he said.
“I know most of the parents, grandparents, cousins, I’m like, ‘Oh God, I can’t believe this is happening,’” Diaz said. “You start putting two and two together and realizing whose child they are, and it just hits real close to home.”
The distraught said that he has sought counseling to cope with the tragedy.
“Just making sure that I’m OK because I need to cope with it. You always hear of soldiers coming back with PTSD because you see things that are not normal to see,” he said.
“And this was not normal to see, so it’s gonna take time. There’s gonna be things that are gonna be in my head about the scene that is gonna be hard for me to forget, but I hope to forget one day,” he added.