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Donors raise millions for children of slain Uvalde teacher Irma Garcia and Joe Garcia, who died of a heart attack – The Washington Post

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One moment Irma Garcia was trying to shield young children from gunfire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex. The next, the 48-year-old teacher had been killed in the deadliest school shooting in the state’s history.

Two days later, her husband, Joe Garcia, suffered a fatal heart attack — moments after returning home from a trip to a memorial set up for the victims. He had taken flowers to honor his wife, another schoolteacher and 19 students who lost their lives.

The couple left behind four children: Cristian, 23; Jose, 19; Lyliana, 15; and Alysandra, 12. As of Saturday afternoon, more than 44,000 donors had raised more than $2.5 million on GoFundMe to help support them.

“Their family was an all-American family,” John Martinez told The Washington Post this week about his aunt, uncle and cousins. “They’re great people. The entire family, they’re all great people. They don’t deserve this.”

Slain teacher’s husband dies of heart attack days after school shooting

Irma Garcia’s cousin Debra Austin, who set up the GoFundMe page, wrote online that Irma was a wife, a mother of four, an aunt, a cousin, a sister and a daughter who would “literally do anything for anybody.”

“I truly believe Joe died of a broken heart and losing the love of his life of more than 25 years was too much to bear,” she wrote.

“Please keep our family in your thoughts and prayers,” she added.

The top donation, more than $500,000, was brought over from a separate GoFundMe created by Martinez. The page has also received several other high-dollar donations and was promoted on social media by Bill Pulte, a philanthropist and CEO of the investment firm Pulte Capital.

Amid the outpouring of support, Martinez, the couple’s nephew, told the Detroit Free Press that he was “elated.”

“Please know, and let people know on behalf of the family, I’m more than grateful and elated at the overwhelming love and support, whether it be the kind words, the donations or even just spreading the word, it means a lot to us,” he said.

GoFundMe pages have been created for other Uvalde shooting victims and survivors, including for schoolteacher Eva Mireles, whose family described her as “a hero.”

“She put her own fears aside to protect her students that day,” her sister wrote. “She was a gift God let us borrow. Our family is torn, we want her back. Nothing will ever fill this void.”

A fundraiser was also created for 11-year-old survivor Miah Cerrillo, who covered herself in blood to make the gunman think she was dead. Her mother wrote on GoFundMe that Miah will need “a lot of help with all the trauma.”

And for Kendall Olivarez, 9, who was shot and survived. Her family is raising money for her medical care.

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Relatives of Irma Garcia said she and fellow schoolteacher Mireles, 44, were gunned down Tuesday while trying to protect their students from a gunman on a rampage.

Martinez said authorities told his family that Irma Garcia used herself as a human shield to try save the children.

“I want her to be remembered as someone who sacrificed her life and put her life on the line for her kids,” he told The Post this week. “They weren’t just her students. Those were her kids, and she put her life on the line, she lost her life to protect them. That’s the type of person she was.”

By Thursday, her husband had also died.

Martinez said Joe Garcia, 50, was in the kitchen when he fell over and Martinez’s mother started performing chest compressions until paramedics arrived. He was rushed to the hospital, where he died, Martinez said.

“Our family is just in shambles right now,” he told The Post. “Nobody expected any of this. It’s heartbreaking.”

Nick Anderson, Moriah Balingit, Marissa J. Lang and Ian Shapira contributed to this report.

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