A memorial dedicated to sisters Sofia Mendoza, 8, and her sister Daniela, 11, stands outside Cox Elementary School in Sachse as a stark reminder of the sobering reality around mass shootings: the lives lost.
The two girls were at Allen Premium Outlets Saturday, May 6, when Mauricio Garcia, 33, opened fire killing eight and wounding seven, including their mother Ilda, 35, who remains hospitalized.
“Words cannot express the sadness we feel as we grieve the loss of our students,” said Superintendent David Vinson in a communication notifying parents about the siblings’ deaths. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and all those affected by this senseless tragedy.”
On Wednesday, May 10, Wylie ISD students at Cox Elementary and across the district were encouraged to wear yellow because it was the girls’ favorite color. Along nearby stop signs, trees and lamp posts in the parking lot, yellow ribbons are tied to commemorate their lives.
Under the school’s main electronic sign, a cross, stuffed animals and several dolls sit after community members contributed them May 10. On the same sign, a yellow heart next to the words “Cox Strong” appears written out in yellow text.
On Tuesday, May 9, students were able to visit with therapy dogs from the Lutheran Church Charities’ K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry to help process any negative emotions because of their schoolmates’ deaths. According to the ministry’s webpage, purebred golden retrievers are used because of their calming nature.
“Both children and adults like the calmness, warmth, to give them a hug, or just melt into their fur to process their grief,” said Debra Buran, director of communications and media relations for Lutheran Church Charities. “When visiting schools, we also spend time with teachers and staff who miss the children that have been lost during the tragedy.”
Sofia was described as funny and sassy while Daniela was known more for being reserved and thoughtful.
“Those who knew Daniela and Sofia best described both girls as sweet and kind and said that their personalities shined brightly,” a spokesperson from Wylie ISD said. “Sofia’s teachers say that being sassy and hilarious captured Sofia’s personality, while Daniela’s teachers described Daniela as quiet and thoughtful and that she loved math.”
In another official statement, Sachse Mayor Jeff Bickerstaff highlighted the support his community offers in tough times.
“Sachse is a community that unites around those who need our support,” Bickerstaff said. “We are here for the family, their friends, Wylie ISD, and our residents who are reeling from a great loss.”
Ilda’s sister has since set up a GoFundMe page that has raised over $265,000 as of Friday, May 12. Donations remain open at gofundme.com/f/kn5ne-medical-expenses.
Other victims from the events include Christian LaCour, 20, a security guard at Allen Premium Outlets from Nevada, Aishwarya Thatikonda, an engineer from India, Elio Cumana-Rivas, 32, and Cho Kyu Song, 37, Kang Shin Young, 35, and James, their 3-year-old son. The family’s 6-year-old son, William, survived.
Another GoFundMe page for William was also set up before it was closed after raising over $1.87 million.
Following the events, Allen Premium Outlets has announced on their website that they will remain closed until the funerals for the victims have been held. Some Dallas-Fort Worth area high schools also staged walkouts Thursday, May 11.
Wylie ISD Communications Coordinator confirmed some students participated in a short walkout at Wylie East High School.
On Tuesday, May 16, a community vigil and prayer was hosted at The Cross Church in Wylie for the Mendoza family.
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