Classmates, community in mourning after fire kills woman, grandson

First-grader was grandmother's ‘main little man'

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VON ORMY, Texas – Eloy Mitchell’s first-grade classmates at Barrera Veterans Elementary School were busy Thursday drawing sympathy cards to give to his family.

Their teacher, Laura Heinze, said she and her students were brokenhearted to hear the boy and his 80-year-old grandmother, Mary Hernandez, had died, trapped upstairs by a raging fire Wednesday night. It burned Hernandez’s south Bexar County home of 30 years to the ground.

“She’s at peace and with her main little man,” said Mary Herrera, Hernandez’s niece.

Herrera said her aunt had always taken care of the child, who the family knew as Levi. She said they were so inseparable that he would sleep with her at night.

“He would go give his mom a kiss and he’d go up to her room, and they’d go to bed,” Herrera said.

Herrera said the boy's mother, her boyfriend and their 1-year-old child escaped through the windows because they were on the first floor of the house.

“They (the boy and his grandmother) were on the top, and supposedly, it started on the bottom,” Herrera said.

A Bexar County spokeswoman said it may take weeks, even months, to determine the cause of the hire.

“He was very sweet, caring and loved being around his friends," said Geneva Salinas, the principal at Barrera Veterans Elementary.

Salina said Eloy and his family would have been at Thursday’s Thanksgiving feast at the school.

“It’s just been really tough for everybody,” Salinas said. “Everybody has come to support one another.”

Eloy’s grandmother is being remembered as a woman of great faith who believed in second chances. Herrera said she not only raised members of the family, she took care of children who weren’t even hers.

“She took them, raised them. They had children. She raised their children as well,” Herrera said.

Herrera said to honor her aunt's memory, the family will try to be more forgiving, as she was.

“Her little saying was, ‘Let it go. Let it go,'” Herrera said. “That’s something that we need to get better at.”

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