Uvalde Victim Lexi Rubio’s Great-Grandfather Reflects On Tragedy

Julian Mostno was outside watering plants in his back yard when he suddenly heard rapid loud booms. This happened early on May 24, 2011. At first, Moreno thought that it was nearby construction noise. However, people started screaming at Robb Elementary School just blocks away. He quickly dropped his hose, and he made his way towards the gunshots in as fast as his 82 year-old body would allow.

“I knew Lexi was in there,” he tells TIME, his voice breaking and his face quivering. “It was like a punch in the gut.”

By that evening, Moreno had confirmation that his 10-year-old great-granddaughter, Alexandria “Lexi” Aniyah Rubio, died in the mass shooting that took the lives of 18 other children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas. The little girl who he used to pick up from school each day, who he’d watch play baseball, and who dreamed of being a lawyer, was gone.

“There is an emptiness,” Moreno says, putting a hand toward his chest. “Heartache. Trying to process why or how it happened.”

Lexi Rubio

Lexi had ambitions. The fourth grader dreamed of someday attending St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Moreno says. If she could visit one place in the world, it would be Australia to “see a kangaroo and a bunch of fun stuff,” Lexi wrote in her journal, which her mother, Kimberly Rubio, shared on Facebook. “And I can try new foods that are not in Uvalde.” Her favorite food so far was pasta Alfredo. She was a voracious reader and hated to miss school. A bit of a boy, she loved fishing and baseball. She proudly was a 4th-generation Texasan and was very close to her Mexican-American-American family.

Moreno used to pick Lexi up from Robb Elementary School every day, and he and his wife would take care of her and her five siblings until her parents—a journalist and a sheriff deputy—got done with work. Moreno still remembers these days fondly. “That was my full-time, non-paying job,” he says with a smile. “One that I enjoyed completely.”

Lexi Rubio with her mother Kimberly.

Courtesy Julian Moreno

Her great-grandfather said that Lexi seemed younger than she was at 10 years old. She could also sound shy until getting to know you. However, she was focused on being at the heart of everything and did well in school.

Both of Lexi’s parents were at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday to watch her receive an honor roll award. Her parents celebrated Lexi’s achievements and Lexi was able to return to class after they left. It was the last time they’d be together.

Continue reading:These are the victims of the Uvalde School Shooting in Texas

“My sweet Lexi. My life. You are my keeper. You were inside of me. I’m you. I am you. I want to be with you,” Kimberly wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday. “Now. Not later.”

‘I have to be strong for them’

Moreno, who was the pastor of Uvalde’s Primera Iglecia Bautista (First Baptist Church), for 50 years, retired in 2021. Now, when he and his wife aren’t helping their grieving granddaughter Kimberly, he spends his time preparing the sermon he’ll deliver at Lexi’s funeral.

He does his best to not cry when he is around people, particularly his family. Not for old-fashioned machismo’s sake, he says, but to try to be a stable and helpful presence. His wife, Lexi’s great-grandmother, is the same. “We have moments that we collapse, of course,” he says. “But when I’m dealing with people and their pain, I have to be strong for them, because if I break down with them, I don’t accomplish a whole lot.”

Continue reading: ‘It’s Too Late for Prayer.’ Uvalde’s Faith Leaders Are Called Upon to Help a Community Face the Unimaginable

On Saturday afternoon, Moreno sits in the front pew of his church, a modest building just three minutes’ drive from Robb Elementary School, while people work in the background to prepare free lunches for the community. Moreno seeks out lessons in his faith here. “Every fiber of my human emotions, in my mind, cries out to hate. To be angry,” he says, looking at the podium in front of him. “But then I remember that I have preached a number of times the words of Jesus. He said that we must learn to love our enemies… This experience has taught me to live those words.”

He has been a pastor for many years and is able to support and listen to his grandchildren and their husband who are both suffering tremendously. He believes they too will learn from this agony, so that someday they may guide others through life’s darkest moments.

“I tell them that one of these days in the future, you may be having a friend or a couple come to you after having lost a loved one,” Moreno says. “And you’re going to be able to share, not something you read in a book, not something that you got from a counseling course. You’re going to be sharing your pain, and how you survived.”

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