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McALLEN — Heads were bowed and tears trickled from anguished faces here Tuesday evening, when residents, local officials and other members of the community gathered to remember the lives of 21 innocents killed in a sibling South Texas community that looks not unlike their own.

On the one-week anniversary of the Robb Elementary School shooting at Uvalde, communities in the Rio Grande Valley joined mourners by holding vigils in McAllen and Brownsville, in memory of the 19 children and two teachers killed Tuesday, May 24, in a mass shooting that has sparked nationwide grief and rejuvenated gun reform efforts.

“We are right there with them, suffering with them because those are our children,” said Elena Ledes Rashid, one of the coordinators of the vigil in McAllen, which was held at the McAllen Performing Arts Center.

City officials and various clergymen attended the ceremony to share prayers with the community. Families held each other close as each clergy expressed a universal sentiment: we are one.

As Sister Norma Pimentel, of the Catholic Charities with the Diocese of Brownsville, read aloud the names of those who died in Uvalde a woman wiped tears from her face as each name echoed across the room, reaching the ears of all who attended.

“As educators we all enter the classrooms daily and our focus is on teaching and developing beautiful human beings and minds and the lessons of that day and week,” said Dr. Eric Posada, founder and artistic director of Pasión. “When we go into work each day the last thing on our mind is something like this tragedy to happen. For us to be reminded that these things exist and unfortunately happen was sobering for us.”

Many expressed themselves in other forms, such as in artistic displays that expressed heartbreak.

Cecilia Garza brought with her a blank canvas and paint and welcomed attendees to convey whatever message was on their heart for the Uvalde community, which is where she plans to deliver it.

An attendee reacts during a prayer vigil for the Uvalde Community at the McAllen Performing Arts Center on Tuesday in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Among them was Lyssa Aleman, 35, a former hospice chaplain, who attended Tuesday’s vigil with her 10- and 12-year-old daughters.

Upon hearing the news of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary, Lyssa said she saw her kids in the children of Uvalde, and wept.

“For me it was for my children to see the reality of love,” she said as tears streamed down her face. “If they don’t have love then that is why these things happen. I believe with all my heart that love covers the multitudes of sin, and I teach my children faith and love. If you have love you won’t kill, if you have love you won’t steal, you won’t cheat, you won’t hurt.”

As the event’s first speaker, McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos set the tone for the evening by introducing a theme of unity among the two communities of the Valley and Uvalde.

“We are family. We are Uvalde,” the mayor said.