(NewsNation) — Hugo Avila couldn’t believe what was happening in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday. He further couldn’t believe his cousin was among the students and staff members shot in a massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
Avila’s cousin, Elsa Avila, a teacher at Robb Elementary School, was not among the 22 dead — 19 children and two staff members, as well as the suspected gunman Salvador Ramos. Avila’s cousin was, however, shot in the stomach and abdomen, requiring “intense surgery,” Avila said.
She is out of surgery as it going to be OK, Avila said, adding that it took two hours. “She’s resting and her family has been able to visit her on and off, ” Avila continued.
Avila went on to describe his cousin to NewsNation’s “Rush Hour”, telling the program that, while she did not have any children, she has six sisters and two brothers and that she’s very close with all of her relatives.
“We’re all a tight-knit family — its not mystery why she’s a teacher. She is a very kind soul, a very quiet but very loving individual,” Avila, who attended Robb Elementary himself, said.
The scope of the horrific shooting was hard to process, especially for a small town such as Ulvalde.
“I was like most anyone, I was shocked,” Avila said. “I was, like, ‘Really? I mean, OK, that happens … but my cousin?’ You don’t think that such beautiful, beautiful people … how that community can go through that?”
Avila, who now lives in Evansville, Indiana, learned of the shooting while he was at work from a friend who called and said he heard there was a school shooting in Uvalde. He called his mother, who confirmed his cousin was shot and taken to a hospital in San Antonio.
Shock then set in for Avila, who could not begin to imagine how something like this could happen in Uvalde, a town of just over 15,000 people.
“It’s crazy to think that someone would do that in such a small community,” Avila said. “I can’t fathom what the community is going through.”
Avila said Uvalde is “absolutely” a tight-knit town.
“Everyone knows each other, everyone helps each other. It was a beautiful place to grow up in. I loved growing up there.”
Avila’s cousin came from a large, tight-knit family, one of nine siblings, Avila said.
“It’s hard to process it but I am just glad she’s OK. That’s the most important thing,” Avila said. “I feel for everyone else who wasn’t so fortunate.”