Tragic footage shows the widower of a teacher killed in the Texas school shooting laying flowers at a memorial to the victims just hours before he died “of grief.”
Joe Garcia, 43, was filmed carrying a large vase of red roses to the memorial site at Uvalde, Texas, on Thursday morning, two days after his wife Irma’s death. Mrs Garcia, 46, was one of the two staff members killed by 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos at Robb Elementary School.
Mr Garcia died from a heart attack just two days after losing his wife as family members confirmed his passing in a tweet, saying he “passed away due to grief.” The couple were high school sweethearts and had been married for 24 years, having four children together, according to the Dallas News.
The clip shows the father fighting back tears as he laid the flowers at the memorial site supported by an older man.
A GoFundMe page set up to help the Garcia children rebuild their lives had collected more than $1.8 million (£1.4 million) in donations by Friday.
A mass was also held on Thursday night in honour of the couple.
According to local news reports, Father Eduardo Morales blessed the three children during the mass telling them, “We are your family. Your mother and father will always find a way to take care of you.”
Their 19-year-old son Jose placed flowers on the altar before returning to the pew where he sobbed once returning to the pew.
Ms Garcia at the time taught third grade, specializing in social studies and English Language Arts and Reading. “I am so excited to begin this new school year already!’ she wrote on the school district’s website before the start of the school year.
Jose, 19, said his mother “treated her rich kids as her own,” and decorated her classrooms with college memorabilia, to inspire them to reach their academic potential.
“She wanted to instill that in their brains,” he said. “They were her lifeblood. She loved engaging with children and teaching them. She loved her job and she loved her co-workers.”
John Martinez, Irma’s nephew, said Joe died from ‘grief’ after returning home from delivering flowers to the memorial.
Irma’s cousin, Debra Austin, said she was “devastated to report Irma’s husband Joe has tragically passed away this morning as a result of a medical emergency.”
She added: “I truly believe Joe died of a broken heart and losing the love of his life of more than 25 years was too much to bear.”
“She sacrificed herself protecting the kids in her classroom,” the GoFundMe page says. “She was a hero. She was loved by many and will truly be missed.”