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'It can't be': Grandma of Texas school shooting victim Ellie Garcia struggles with unthinkable loss

“She would run in, give me hugs. ‘Hi grandma, I love you,’” Lugo said. “I don’t believe this could be reality.”

UVALDE, Texas — The love of a grandma, or “abuelita,” is special.

That’s why Nelda Lugo feels as if her granddaughter Ellie Garcia will walk through the front door at any moment.

“She would run in, give me hugs. ‘Hi grandma, I love you,’” Lugo said. “I don’t believe this could be reality.”

Late Tuesday night, the family learned that “Ellie” was among the 21 people shot and killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. Among the victims, 19 were children. Lugo told WFAA the family hoped to reunite with Ellie in the hours before she was declared deceased.

Tuesday night, Lugo learned from her daughter that their young Ellie was killed.

“I said no, it can’t be. Check the hospitals, she has to be there,” Lugo said.

Lugo described Ellie as a happy child. She loved making TikTok videos and was excited to celebrate her 10th birthday in just under two weeks.

Ellie looked forward to the day she’d have a quinceañera. She wanted to wear a big purple dress. 

“Why. Why her?” Lugo said, as she choked up.

The tight-knit community of Uvalde is reeling with that same question: why?

Lupe Leija’s 8-year-old son survived. Leija said his son’s classroom was on the opposite side of where the shooting happened.

“A lot of emotions, anger, frustration,” Leija said.

Wednesday morning, Leija’s son still didn’t know about the shooting.

Leija was still trying to figure out when or how to tell him that at least five of his friends were killed. 

“Only time… when time comes,” Leija said.

Hearts are broken.

Parents, family members, and friends haven’t slept. Lugo said Ellie’s death likely won’t sink in until she sees her in an open casket.

One thought haunts Lugo. 

“I don’t know if she suffered or died right away,” Lugo said. “But, she’s gone.”

She’s trying to remember Ellie in her sweetest moments. Recently, the 9-year-old made a video for her dad. It was ahead of her upcoming 10th birthday.

“When you get off work, I’ll be there for you. I love you,” Ellie said in the video.

Her grandparent's home was filled with family members all day long on Wednesday. Lugo said it brings comfort.

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