Star high school student-athlete is among over 20 dead in storms in Texas & Oklahoma
There was nothing, it seemed, that Alyssa Renee Ramirez couldn’t do.
She had friends everywhere in her hometown of Devine, Texas. At Devine High School, she was student council president and co-editor of the yearbook. She starred on the tennis and volleyball teams, not to mention as a cheerleader. And the reigning homecoming queen had one last dance in her Saturday night, as she, her date and their friends lived it up at prom.
Ramirez never made it home. Her car got caught up in fast-moving floodwater, ending her short but illustrious life and leaving her classmates crestfallen.
“She was a good person,” Amber Contreras told CNN affiliate WOAI, fighting back tears over the news her friend is gone. “I was like, it can’t be happening.”
But it did, around 2:45 a.m. (1:45 a.m. ET) Sunday within sight of Ramirez’s home about two miles away. Torrential rains made it near impossible to see, including the sight of a road inundated with floodwater.
Once the teenager got stuck, her aunt Roberta Ramirez told CNN, she called 911 then called her father.
“He just told her to stay put, I’m on my way,” Roberta Ramirez said. “But by the time he got there, the water was just torrential. There was such force so that even if she had gotten out of the vehicle, it probably would have carried her away.”
Now, rather than getting ready to graduate on June 5 and pursuing her plans of becoming an optometrist, Ramirez will be buried Wednesday. Her family’s only solace is their belief she’s gone to heaven, pointing to her strong Christian faith.
In an online post nine days before her death, the family says, Ramirez wrote about faith growing “through hardship (and) in a desert of tribulation.”
“Even though it is never pleasant to experience hardship,” she said, “it teaches us to persevere and to cling to God. He will never desert us.”‘
13 killed as tornado rips Mexican border city
Ramirez is one of more than 20 people in two countries killed by the same storm system.
Thirteen of those deaths happened in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, a historic border city best known internationally as the setting for Robert Rodriguez’s films “El Mariachi” and “Desperado,” and George Strait’s song “Blame it on Mexico.”
While rain and flooding were to blame for the four confirmed deaths in Oklahoma and two in Texas, it was a rare tornado that caused the most bloodshed in Acuña. Three children were among the dead, said Mayor Evaristo Lenin Perez, and another 200 people were injured.
Photos from the scene, which sits right across the border from Del Rio, Texas, showed cars blown upright and leaning against homes. The twister flipped over school buses and damaged about 400 homes.
One resident, walking around the damaged area, said he saw part of a car that had been tossed to the summit of a hill.
“You can also see another truck that was flung by the wind into the side of the hill,” Homero Iracheta said.
Firefighter among four killed in Oklahoma
Five of the nine U.S. deaths happened in Texas, including Alyssa Ramirez, two people in rain-deluged Houston and 59-year-old Richard Ash of Pettibone after a tornado there, officials said. One person also died in San Marcos, a city roughly halfway between Austin and San Antonio.
Those are in addition to four deaths in Oklahoma, including a 37-year-old man in Sapulpa and a woman in Tulsa, who died after her car hydroplaned Saturday.
In Claremore, a firefighter got swept into a storm drain while attempting a high-water rescue Sunday.
And in Blue, a tiny Oklahoma community about 10 miles east of Durant, Sandra Callicoat Swinney, 48, died when a tornado touched down and tore apart her mobile home, Bryan County Chief Investigator Nathan Calloway told CNN affiliate KXII.
“We all wish that we could report that there were no injuries, and especially no fatalities,” Calloway said.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t true in Calloway’s native Oklahoma, in neighboring Texas or northern Mexico.
Roberta Ramirez says her family is still trying to make sense of the fact that her niece Alyssa won’t be able to pursue her passions, though she hopes that Alyssa’s friends continue to follow their own as they mourn.
“The best way to honor her and others that have died in these terrible storms,” Roberta Ramirez said, “is to do their best they can and live their own dreams.”