On the Sunday following the mass shooting in El Paso that left 22 people dead, Teresa Garrett got together with Elvira Flores and decided they’d request postcards filled with kind words for their students as the new year began the next day.
“I think we wanted to do it because we were unsure how our students would feel the first day back to school and honestly maybe I felt a little apprehensive as well,” Garrett, a 4th-grade teacher at Tom Lea Elementary, told HipLatina.
— Ryan Knight 🗽 (@ProudResister) August 13, 2019
The shooting at the Walmart, which is being investigated as a possible hate crime against the Latinx community, occurred when many parents were out back-to-school shopping. The mass shooting also left 26 people injured and in the aftermath, a manifesto allegedly from the shooter began circulating where he declared his hate for the Latinx community and his plan of attack, TIME reported. According to the U.S. Census, Latinx make up 83 percent of the population in El Paso, a city that borders Juárez, Mexico and has a population of more than 840,000.
“We may be large but we feel connected to one another like a small town,” Garrett said. She and Flores are requesting words of kindness, a simple gesture to help reinforce there are good people in the world. “Kind words and positive notes makes anyone feel good and especially children.”
So far she’s received about a hundred postcards and actually deleted the original Facebook post with the request after they noticed it started going viral. “We panicked as we did not expect the response it has had. Now that we have had time to breathe we welcome all postcards for our community,” she said. “My students are in awe at the outpour of love and support they have received.”
In a time when bullet-resistant backpacks are now increasingly popular and it’s now becoming a trend for teachers and students to write out wills it’s a gesture of goodwill that can act as a necessary balm after a tragic event.
Garrett is originally from Ohio and has lived in El Paso for 40 years and said that she could see how affected her 16-year-old granddaughter was in the aftermath. “[She] wondered why someone would come here and target a specific group, especially since she is Hispanic. And to be honest I think we were all in shock that it happened here by someone who drove her with the intent to do harm to our beautiful city.”
Garrett’s request has been shared on Twitter and Facebook with many commenters offering to help in other ways as well. She’s been encouraging people to look on Donorschoose.org to fund projects for teachers in El Paso. A search for El Paso on the site resulted in 289 projects in need of funding with many requesting books on diversity and positivity. Lady Gaga recently partnered with the online platform to help fund 162 classrooms in Dayton, Ohio, El Paso, Texas and Gilroy, California.
When asked what she’d want her students to know if she could share a positive message, Garrett said: “I would want my student’s parents to know that I would do anything to keep their babies safe while in my care. I want them to know there is good in the world and they are surrounded with love and support.”