Texas school shooting: Armed police respond to scene in Uvalde
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Nineteen young children and two adults were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday. The gunman opened fire on children and teachers who tried to protect them before he was shot dead by law enforcement.
The Duchess of Sussex visited a community centre in the city in south Texas on Thursday, May 26.
The Herby Ham Activity Centre hosted an emergency blood drive to help victims of the shooting.
Director Sue Rankin told BuzzFeed News a member of the duchess’s security team walked into her office late on Thursday morning and told her Meghan was in Uvalde.
She said: “She wanted to come by and just see everything that was going on with the blood drive and to help. Her whole thing was she wanted to help.
“She was going to be incognito, he told me that she was going to be wearing a T-shirt and ripped blue jeans and a hat and a mask and no one was going to — he didn’t want anyone to know who she was because she did not want the press attention.”
Ms Rankin said she was told Meghan was on her way to a nearby grocery store to pick up food platters for the centre’s volunteers and people who were giving blood.
She said: “She went and picked up trays and trays of sandwiches and snacks and everything for the people who were coming in and giving blood.
“It was for our workers. It was for myself. it was for anybody that wanted to, you know, have lunch.”
She said the duchess’s security team did a sweep when Meghan arrived and asked to meet the director outside the centre.
Ms Rankin said: “I did, and we visited for a few minutes. She did have her mask on. She kept it on the whole time. There were no cameras whatsoever.”
She brought Meghan through the back door into the kitchen and introduced her as a volunteer.
Ms Rankin said: “There was no ‘Look! It’s Meghan Markle!’ Nothing. And she introduced herself as Meghan.
“She said, ‘My name is Meghan,’ and didn’t go into any more detail,” Rankin added. “She started passing out sandwiches to the people who were donating [blood] and it was, she was delightful.”
She added: “I didn’t even tell my poor husband. So when she came here, he walked in and he met her and she said, ‘Oh, you must be Jimmy!’”
Ms Rankin said: “‘It’s about the kids. It’s about the families. And I don’t care if anyone knows that I’m here’ – she told me that herself personally.”
The director said Meghan told her that she held her children Archie, 3, and 11-month-old Lilibet, “a little bit tighter” after she heard about the massacre, BuzzFeed News reported.
A number of volunteers at the centre said they had conversations with Meghan without realising who she was until after she left when news spread that she was in Uvalde.
Ms Rankin said: “One of the nurses … came over to me and said, ‘I cannot believe you did not tell us Meghan Markle was here. We were standing right next to her.
“And the head of the volunteer crew said, ‘I stood there and talked to her for 10 minutes. I had no idea.’ And I said, ‘That’s what they wanted. They didn’t want you to know that she was here.’”
Mr Rankin said she spoke with Meghan for about 20 minutes about the tragedy, the blood drive and the work that the centre does.
She said “tears came into her eyes when she was talking about the tragedy that happened here, and the families, and the children.”
She also shot down speculation that Meghan had visited the centre with an accompanying camera crew or personal photographer.
She stressed: “It was not a photo op. I reiterate: Meghan did not bring any cameras with her. She didn’t bring any reporters.”
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In fact, she said Meghan had wanted to stay at the centre for more time but she and her security team left when Beto O’Rourke, Democratic candidate for governor of Texas, arrived with a crew of news reporters in tow.
Ms Rankin said: “As a matter of fact, as soon as his team arrived for him to get the notoriety of giving blood — when Mr O’Rourke’s crew arrived, they left. And I didn’t know that they had left.”
She later received a call from Meghan’s security team to apologise for their quick exit, explaining they did not want the duchess to be recognised by members of the press arriving with Mr O’Rourke.
Ms Rankin explained the duchess had made a number of other incognito visits to various locations around Uvalde.
She said: “There were other places in town that knew she was coming because she did the same thing.
“She went into other places around town incognito. No one knew she was here.”
A spokesperson for the duchess confirmed that Meghan had made “multiple stops” in Uvalde but did not provide details of the other locations that were visited.
The spokesperson stressed that the duchess had travelled to Uvalde in her personal capacity as a mother, without any press or media coordination.
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