Amber Ybarra remembers her cousin, Eva Mireles, as an “absolutely vivacious” woman.
And now, after the tragic shooting that took place at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Tuesday, she remembers her as “a hero,” too.
The fourth grade teacher was killed Tuesday in the deadliest school shooting in the state’s history, which also took the lives of her co-teacher, Irma Garcia, and 19 children at the school.
"No one walked into that school yesterday knowing that anything like this was possible," Ybarra said during a video visit to TODAY Wednesday.
But upon hearing reports that her cousin died while trying to protect students, Ybarra wasn't surprised.
"100 percent," she said. "(Eva) is a hero."
And she was so much more than that.
"She was absolutely vivacious," Ybarra explained. "She was definitely an adventurer. You know, it breaks my heart. I just saw her for Christmas this last December, and ... her cooking was amazing, her laughter was contagious."
Some of that vivacious spirit came through in an entry on the Robb Elementary School website. Mireles, who worked as an educator for 17 years, wrote about anticipating “a wonderful year ahead,” mentioned having “a supportive, fun and loving family” and added “I love running, hiking, and now you just might see me riding a bike!!"
Ybarra said that Mireles loved "what she did at the school, and she put her heart in everything that she did."
Mireles also had a full life outside of school, as a wife and mother.
"I hope to talk to them more and to kind of see what I can do to support them," Ybarra said of the family. "I know everyone is going through a lot. This is very sudden and traumatic."
Ybarra, who grew up in Uvalde and attended Robb Elementary, said the 44-year-old "will be missed," as will everyone who lost their lives Tuesday.
"It is a tight-knit community. Everyone knows everybody," she noted. "I hope that we could support each other in this very tough time, and see what we can do to rise up as a community and be there for each other because these families need it."