WASHINGTON — The Nationals held moments of silence ahead of both their games against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday and Wednesday out of respect for the victims of the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school that left 21 people dead, including 19 children. The American flag that overlooks the center field plaza was lowered to half-staff.
On Tuesday, an 18-year-old gunman crashed a car through a barrier outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., before using two semiautomatic AR-15 rifles to open fire in a classroom full of fourth-grade students. It was the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. this year with the highest death toll of any school shooting since 20 students and six teachers were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. In addition to the 21 people killed, another 17 were injured.
“It’s heartbreaking, it’s terrible,” Nationals reliever Kyle Finnegan, who was born in Texas and went to college at Texas State just two hours from Uvalde, said Wednesday.
“I have a daughter myself around that age so just I can’t imagine what the parents are going through. They’re all in our thoughts and prayers and it’s a horrible situation. I think in times like this you just love everyone a little more and hug your kids a little tighter. It’s a terrible and traumatic event and it’s sad that we live in a world where things like that happen, but all you can do is fight for a better tomorrow and that starts today.”
The shooter had no documented mental-health issues nor was he on any law enforcement agency’s radar having no criminal record, according to the Wall Street Journal. Nationals manager Davey Martinez grew visibly upset when discussing the shooting in his pregame press conference Wednesday. He said afterward that some of his players were weary of dropping their kids off at school that morning and his grandchildren were on his mind.
“Honestly, it's freaking awful,” Martinez said. “It really is. I didn't want to talk about it cause, you know, but my condolences to the families. Those poor kids, it's not right. It really isn't. Something needs to change.”
When asked what he wants changed, Martinez called for government action. He slammed his fist in frustration on the press conference table as he walked off the podium.
“I mean, obviously the gun control,” Martinez said. “We need to do something in this country before it gets any worse. It's not good.”
For Finnegan, the shooting hit home. Texas has been the site of several mass shootings in recent years, but all he could think about was the feeling of loss the families of the victims were going through.
“That’s supposed to be a place where your kids are the safest and to have something like that happen, it’s very scary and being a Texan I definitely feel for all those families and I can’t help but think about my daughter and my kids and I just can’t imagine what they’re going through right now,” Finnegan said.
The Nationals plan to hold another moment of silence ahead of their series opener with the Colorado Rockies on Thursday and will once again lower the ballpark flag to half-staff.