Layla was one of the 19 students killed in the Uvalde mass shooting, now the third-deadliest school shooting in American history.
Trigger Warning: This story contains details of gun violence which some readers may find distressing.
On the doomed day of May 24, 2022, Layla lost her life at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, along with 18 of her fourth-grade classmates and two teachers, in what is now the third-deadliest school shooting in American history according to ABC7. Nearly 400 local, state, and federal law enforcement personnel were present, yet the gunman was essentially unhindered in the hallways for more than an hour as per PEOPLE. Layla Salazar, was always up for physical activity, whether she was swimming in a river, dancing in her own TikToks, or running around a track with her black ringlets flapping behind her, ready for middle school.
Just when I thought things from yesterday couldn’t get any harder. To learn that you were one of the victims to this senseless act crushes me. I watched you grow up as a kid, you had so much more life to give. I’m so sorry. I will miss you! R.I.P Layla Salazar❤️🙏 pic.twitter.com/vQ0IP4onsH— Alexツ (@ChickenParmasia) May 25, 2022
The 11-year-old wanted to start donning dangly earrings and makeover her bedroom into a "teenager room." She served as her mom, Melinda Alejandro's little best friend. Her 19-year-old brother Nicholas describes her as "kind, crazy, and charismatic." She was "simply so much fun," her father, Vincent Salazar, told the news outlet, adding, "She was a bundle of energy. She was required to participate in everything, no matter what." For the Salazar family, that day had begun just like any other. As the next-to-last day of classes, it would be a simple day filled with festivities and award presentations.
As Layla Salazar’s parents packed up her room they found this.— Lidia Terrazas (@LidiaTerrazas) March 29, 2023
A folder with her dreams written all over it, a mosaic of her favorite things and people (Lexi and Mr. Reyes included).
Layla is one of the 19 students killed during the school shooting in Uvalde. pic.twitter.com/unSdJ557Nd
For the brief journey to school, Layla got into the car with her father and listened to their normal mix of vintage rock songs from the '80s and '90s. One of Layla's favorite songs, Sweet Child o' Mine by Guns N' Roses, was playing as she got out of the car at school. A lockdown at the school was announced through a text message to Vincent, a supermarket sanitation worker, almost four hours later, at around 11:40 a.m. An active shooter was reported in another text. People were fleeing and shouting all over the place by the time he arrived at Robb Elementary School.
The father said, "People were screaming and running everywhere. I couldn't wrap my head around it. It was like the end of the world. Julian, Layla's older brother, a 27-year-old pharmaceutical worker from Illinois, watched television coverage about the March 27 massacre at Nashville's Covenant School. "When I saw what happened there when police went in quickly and shot the shooter, I just kept wondering, 'Why didn't that happen at my sister's school?'"
Nicholas, the younger brother, senses the emptiness left in the home without his boisterous younger sister. "We were always talking and stuff, just messing with each other. Well mainly it was me messing with her--and then she'd get mad at me. We were as close as siblings can get. Now it's so quiet. I have no one to talk to, really," said the younger brother. The Salazars and other Uvalde families have backed proposed Texas legislation that would have raised the legal purchase age for semi-automatic guns from 18 to 21. But the legislation has come to a standstill.
"I would always tell Layla that nothing's ever happening to my baby, because I'm here," says Vinnie. "But something did happen to her and I wasn't there. The family is also advocating for more funding for mental health resources in the state. The family will gather at midnight on May 23 at her gravesite which is lovingly cared for by Melinda to mark one year without Layla. They'll say some prayers, "and just be with her," says Vinnie. "I never thought we'd be spending our time here in a cemetery. Yet here we are. This is our life now."
Cover Image Source: Facebook | (L) Robb Elementary ; (R) Vinnie Salazar