UVALDE, Texas – At the Flower Patch in Uvalde, Texas, a group of florists volunteer to prepare floral arrangements for the funerals of the 19 children and two teachers killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School.
Store owner Kelly Baker said she was saving sunflowers for one of the victims, the daughter of one of her high school classmates. “Their baby’s favorite sunflower was,” Baker said.
“As we begin to make these arrangements, we will secure and save sunflowers for this baby so his family will get just a tiny bit of what they wanted – or would have wanted – for their service” , she added.
In a small town where almost everyone knows someone directly affected by the fatal shooting, florists like Baker have been inundated with orders for wreaths and colorful arrangements. The funeral began this week and will continue until mid-June.
“Most arrangements take between 30 and 45 minutes each,” Baker said. “We make thousands.”
Veronica Berger, owner of the Ahr flower shop in LaCoste, Texas, drove about an hour in her flower van to help out.
“Florists are the only ones who know how to get out of this,” Berger said. “It’s very hard work, but it’s very rewarding. … When this tragedy happened, we knew exactly what we had to do.”
Berger is one of many people who came to help Baker, who said he received help in the form of donations and physical labor.
“We probably have about 12 people there right now designing behind the scenes that you don’t see,” Baker said. “And they all volunteer from around the world.”
Farms and other stores also donated their floral supplies, Baker said. Need green lilies? Do. Pink peonies? They are on their way.
“We’re very lucky we didn’t want a flower color or style,” Berger said.
In the back room of the store, there are a handful of workstations with greenery on tables and colorful ribbons on the walls. There are buckets of flowers lining the cramped space. It’s organized chaos. On one wall are the names of the victims, with dozens of purchase orders attached to their names.
Some of the florists chat as they work, and others deliver arrangements to the Rushing-Estes-Knowles morgue next door.
Former Uvalde resident Leslie Garza, a San Antonio-based florist, drove over to help Baker as soon as she realized how many funerals there would be.
“She’s my friend. I knew I had to come. So we have to help her until she gets the hang of it,” Garza said.
On Monday, the community will gather for a rosary and visitation for 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza and Maite Yuleana Rodriguez. Rodriguez loved animals and dreamed of becoming a marine biologist, and Garza was keen on swimming and drawing and hoped to become an art teacher.
NPR’s Pien Huang contributed to this report.