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'They're so young:' A grandfather in Uvalde, Texas, mourns 10-year old Jayce Luevanos

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 5/26/2022 Andrea Ball, USA TODAY
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UVALDE, Texas – It’s the morning coffee Carmelo Quiroz will miss.

Every morning, Quiroz‘s grandson, 10-year-old Jayce Luevanos, woke up and made his grandparents a pot of coffee. It was his thing. And they loved him for it. 

Yes, there were other things about Jayce to love. The way he colored and wrote notes saying “I love you Grandpa.” The way he twirled sticks and always brought the neighborhood kids to the family home, a block from Robb Elementary School. 

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Jayce's dog, Fifi, would wait for him to get home. Sometimes there would be 6, 7, 8 kids tumbling around the yard, playing with sticks and roughhousing as Quiroz and his wife looked on, amused. There were sodas and water for all the kids. 

Visitors pay respects at the school sign of Robb Elementary School on the day after a mass shooting that left 19 children and two adults dead in Uvalde, Texas. © Jack Gruber/USA TODAY Visitors pay respects at the school sign of Robb Elementary School on the day after a mass shooting that left 19 children and two adults dead in Uvalde, Texas.

Jayce was happy. He was loved. And he died Tuesday, Quiroz said. 

Here, on a sunny spring morning in the last week of school, a gunman entered Robb Elementary and killed 19 children and two teachers. Quiroz learned that night that Jayce was among the victims. 

“He was our baby,” Quiroz said. 

More: Families mourn as names of Texas school shooting victims begin to emerge

More: Uvalde school shooting among deadliest school attacks in past 10 years

On Wednesday morning, he was slumped over behind the wrought-iron fence posts in the family's backyard, looking out into the empty day. A few blocks past there, crowds of FBI agents and other law enforcement officers still were gathered at the roped-off school. 

His family hasn’t been allowed to see their boy. Maybe tomorrow, Quiroz said. 

Why did this happen? he wonders. Why are these shooters so unhappy? Can’t they talk to someone? 

Jayce and his mother lived with Quiroz. Theirs is a close-knit neighborhood, the kind that little towns like Uvalde make possible. On the blocks that stretch away from the school campus, tidy facades of brick and stone share space with the occasional boarded-up window. A windowsill props up a little blue birdhouse above a patina statue. A carport carries a Dallas Cowboys football flag. Roosters crow constantly; dogs bark. 

Quiroz was standing in the quiet, with his memory of the morning before.

That day, Jayce’s grandmother was going with her great-granddaughter’s kindergarten class to the San Antonio Zoo, Quiroz said. Jayce had begged to go with them.

But to skip school? Now? Just a few days were left before summer break. Just go to school, they told him. 

And Jayce liked school, Quiroz said. How could they even begin to imagine something like this could happen? 

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Soon, though, Jayce’s family knew something was wrong. They didn’t run to the school, Quiroz said. They stayed home, not wanting to get in the way. They wanted the police to do their job. 

Then they heard that it had been a shooting. They knew children were dead. Some of their extended family members went to the hospital or the civic center, where dozens of people languished for hours waiting for news about their kids. 

Quiroz’s family waited. Hours passed. And then, around 11 p.m., they got the call. Jayce was dead. 

Now they were the ones in agony. 

“That’s why my wife is hurting so much, because he wanted to go to San Antonio,” Quiroz said. “He was so sad he couldn’t go. Maybe if he would have gone, he’d be here.” 

 And so, the day after the shooting, with a crowd of reporters and camera crews a few streets away, Quiroz stood in the backyard, teary-eyed. Behind his house, only an occasional police cruiser passed. He had come outside to be alone with his pain, his little black and white dog, Loretta, by his side. 

But it wasn’t just about just his pain. It’s about his family’s. "It's hard right now," he said.  

He thinks, too, about the others. "I feel sad for my grandson, but I feel sad for all the people who lost their children like that," he said. "They're so young. Trying to better themselves. And then something like this." 

Quiroz remembered how the little dog would wait for the kids to come home from school. 

“His friends are hurting real bad right now,” Quiroz said. “They were so close. Close, close.” 

As he stood, a helicopter arrived overhead, its roar dissolving the quiet.

Quiroz worried about his wife’s guilt and his daughter’s stress. His throat closed and eyes watered as he imagined what would be missing in the days. The colored pictures. The kids with sticks in the back yard, the sodas and water all around. And there would be no more coffee. No more pots of coffee from Jayce. 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'They're so young:' A grandfather in Uvalde, Texas, mourns 10-year old Jayce Luevanos

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