Agua Prieta, Mexico • Not even mourning is easy for the family of the nine women and children with Utah ties killed in this week’s violence in northern Mexico.
Relatives drove from as far away as the Beehive State on Wednesday to visit the surviving children in a hospital in Tucson, Ariz., and then to attend the funerals later this week in the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua.
Rebecca Langford of Vineyard is a sister-in-law to Dawna Langford, who died with two of her sons Monday. Rebecca Langford stopped in Tucson to visit some of her five nieces and nephews who survived the attack.
Rebecca Langford said the children will recover — physically.
“They won’t ever recover from something as traumatizing as this,” she said, “because how can you recover from watching your dear mother and brothers gunned down in front of your eyes?”
The survivors were only part of the focus Wednesday. Family members were trying to make their way to La Mora, Sonora, where the first of the funerals are expected to occur Thursday.
It can be a four-hour drive from Douglas, Ariz., the closest U.S. city to the border. Most of the drive is made on winding, dusty dirt roads.
In one caravan that left Wednesday afternoon, about 30 people driving about 10 SUVs and pickup trucks met at a Walmart in Douglas. Many travelers bought drinking water in the store and let air out of the tires in their vehicles to remove bounce from their forthcoming ride.
On the south side of the border, the caravan drove to a Mexican consulate to meet an escort of vehicles from the federal police and Mexican military. The escorts protected the front and back of the convoy and blocked off intersections to allow the Americans to stay together.
The Mexican government has promised safe passage to and from the funerals.
In one Ford F-150, Patrick and Kathleen Zerkle remembered driving the road in happier times. Kathleen Zerkle’s mother and some of her siblings live in La Mora.
The couple used to drive from their homes in Missouri or Utah and spend Thanksgiving in La Mora. It would be a three-day event, Kathleen Zerkle said.
There had been talk of another Thanksgiving event in La Mora this year.
“It’s probably not going to happen now,” Kathleen Zerkle said as the dust rolled past her window in the truck’s passenger seat.
When the caravan arrived in La Mora about 8 p.m., there was a steak fry underway in a yard in the center of the community. Relatives of the deceased were eating alongside Mexican soldiers protecting La Mora.
Along the street was a row of pickup trucks with license plates from Utah and other Western and Midwestern states.
At the gathering was Tyler Johnson, husband of the slain Christina Johnson. He hugged loved ones underneath the portable spotlights raised to illuminate the event.
Hundreds of mourners reportedly drove in for the funerals.