To honor 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza's bravery in attempting to save her classmates' lives, the Girl Scouts have granted a posthumous award to the student, who was killed in the shooting at her elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
When a gunman opened fire inside her classroom at Robb Elementary on May 24, Amerie attempted to call 911. But before she could call for help, she was fatally shot, her father told CNN. She was one of the 21 victims — 19 students and 2 teachers — killed in the shooting.
On Tuesday, the Girl Scouts announced it had awarded Amerie "one of the highest honors in Girl Scouting": the Bronze Cross, a medal "presented when a girl has shown special heroism or faced extraordinary risk of her own life to save another’s life or an attempt to save another life."
"On May 24, Amerie did all she could to save the lives of her classmates and teachers," the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas said in a tweet. "It was our honor as Amerie’s council to present the Bronze Cross to her family, and Girl Scouts will continue to pay tribute at her funeral services today with a Presentation of Colors.
"We will carry her story with us always and ensure her brave actions will endure for generations," they added.
It was Amerie's first year as a Girl Scout, her grandmother, Berlinda Arreola, told People magazine. Earlier this month, she had attended her "bridging ceremony," during which she advanced from the rank of Brownie to Junior, the organization said. On the day of the shooting, Amerie, like many of her classmates, had just received an award for making the honor roll.
"Amerie was a bright and outgoing fourth-grader who loved Play-Doh, playing with friends at recess — and being a Girl Scout," the organization said. "Her parents say she was proud of the badges she earned."
In a ceremony on Friday, Amerie's family was given a green Girl Scouts sash with the Bronze Cross medal pinned to it, as well as a framed letter from the organization's CEO, according to People.
Though she had only recently joined the Girl Scouts, Amerie had long embodied the group's commitment to "help people at all times," as the Girl Scouts Promise pledges. Her best friend, 10-year-old Khloe Torres, told KENS 5 that Amerie spent some of her final moments trying to reassure her they would be OK.
“We were told we were going into lockdown,” Khloe said. "My friend was saying this is normal. Don’t be scared. Nothing is going to happen.”
Amerie was someone who stood up against bullies to protect others, one student's father told the Texas Tribune. David Treviño said his daughter faced bullying at school, and Amerie, who was also her cousin, would defend her.
“She would stick up for her for the bullies to stop picking on her,” Treviño said. “[My daughter] is taking it really hard. [Amerie] would protect her from the bullies.”
In a CNN interview, Amerie's father, Angel Garza, said his daughter had turned 10 just two weeks before she was killed. For her birthday, she received her first cellphone — the one she would later use to try calling 911.
Garza, a medical aide, found out Amerie had been killed while responding to the scene of the shooting.
"One little girl was just covered in blood head to toe. I thought she was injured, I asked her what was wrong," Garza recalled. "She said she was OK — she was hysterical, saying that they shot her best friend, that they killed her best friend, she was not breathing.
"I asked the little girl the name," he said, "And she said 'Amerie.'"
Amerie was always trying to do the right thing, and did so up until the end, Garza told CNN. He hopes people remember her for doing everything she could to try to save her classmates, he said.
"How do you look at this girl and just shoot her?" Garza said through tears, clutching a photo of his daughter. "Oh my baby. How do you shoot my baby?"
A GoFundMe for funeral costs and other expenses has raised over $125,000 for the family as of Wednesday. Many other students' families are raising money to cover similar costs, as well as therapy for the children who survived. The Girl Scouts are also assisting with fundraising efforts for the community, including for Amerie's troop.
An obituary written by her family described Amerie as a "kind, caring, blunt, loving, sweet, sassy, and of course funny, little diva" who "truly had a heart of gold." She loved swimming, drawing, Chick-Fil-A, and Starbucks vanilla bean Fraps. She hated wearing dresses and wanted to be an art teacher when she grew up.
She loved spending time with her family and was "a protector of her brother, and as we now know, her classmates."
"This world will never have another Amerie," the family wrote. "She will truly be missed."