Uvalde mom Evadulia Orta reflects on the first Mother’s Day without son Rojelio

UVALDE (CBSNewsTexas) – Evadulia Orta keeps the last Mother’s Day card she received from her son Rojelio in a box. While she may still be holding her cherished memory in her hand, what makes this upcoming vacation difficult are the things she can’t touch.

His 10-year-old son was murdered, along with 18 of his classmates and two teachers last year at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

“I won’t get a Mother’s Day card from him this year. I won’t get a hug from him. It will be difficult,” Orta said.

His face lights up, a faint smile revealed as he describes Rojelio.

A playful and outgoing child, he loved Pokémon, board games, the lottery and playing soccer. Orta planned to sign him up for football over the summer, but he “didn’t get the chance”.

Described as living a loving life, always with a “smile on his face,” Orta said her son was eager to help others.

“He was a kind person. He loved helping people. His family…me…helped me a lot,” she shared.

Orta, who has said that her mother and grandmother are strong women, stands firm for her surviving children, Federico, 11, and Mary, who was just six when Rojelio was murdered.

“He knows he’s not here anymore, but he still asks me when he’s coming home. Orta said.

Both children are in counseling.

“My son takes it harder than me. He was very close to my son.”

Orta said the family could spend Mother’s Day visiting Rojelio’s grave.

“That gives us the peace of knowing he’s there and we can talk to him,” said Orta, who is also speaking to lawmakers — loudly.

“We will keep talking. And we won’t stop fighting until justice is done and they take the age limit. We are fighting for our children and we are fighting for the children who are still here,” she shared.

The 18-year-old who killed Rojelio bought the weapon he used in the May 24, 2022 massacre shortly after he turned 18.

Orta pushed for the passage of House Bill 2744, which raises the age for the purchase of some semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21.

With this session dismissed, a Texas House committee advanced the “Raise the Age” gun bill on May 8, sending it to the entire House. It was a move that surprised many gun reform activists. The bill still faces opposition from many Republicans, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Many Uvalde families were at the Capitol together with the Moms Demand Action group, a grassroots movement fighting for public safety measures to protect people from gun violence. They sang “raise the age!”

The same day the bill passed the House, Abbott held a press conference on border security. CBS News Texas asked the governor for a response to Texans who are frustrated with the prevalence of mass shootings.

“I believe the public will be much better informed in the coming days about why and how this happened, which will inform us as Texas leaders about the next steps to take to try to prevent crimes like this from happening in the future,” Abbott said. .

After the Uvalde shooting, Abbott told the families of the victims he would not support their calls for gun safety legislation; suggesting that raising the age to own an assault weapon was unconstitutional. Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican, later said that proposals to raise the minimum age required for some firearms and other gun measures did not get enough votes to pass.

Dallas Democratic State Representative Rafael Anchía supports the bill and said the gun legislation could potentially save lives.

For years in Texas, many Republicans shelved efforts to tighten gun laws after mass shootings and even expanded gun rights after the 2019 attack on a Walmart in El Paso. The gunman in that shootout killed 23 people.

The question of gun safety is not just a priority for Orta. He’s at the top of the minds of many Texans, who have said he should be given top priority in the legislature.

On May 3, a new University of Texas poll revealed that 76 percent of Texas voters support raising the age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21, including 64 percent of Republican voters.

“This is not some sort of Democrat-Republican thing. People all over Texas and all over America just want to be safe from gun violence,” state Senator Roland Gutierrez said in part in a statement sent to CBS NewsTexas.

Even if the entire House debates HB2744, it faces an uphill climb given the Republican majority. If it passes, the bill will go to the Senate, where it faces an even steeper climb.

Orta also called for increased police accountability after hundreds of law enforcement officers waited more than an hour to breach the fourth-grade classroom and confront the shooter.

“I blame the officers who were there that day who didn’t come into the classroom to help my son… Help our kids and the teachers we lost. We’re still in shock because they didn’t come in right away to save our kids,” he said. “It was like yesterday that happened for us. Every day feels like this.”

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