Two days after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School here, survivors tell the stories of the horrific times they endured when they were attacked.
Some children hid from the killer under tables, while others faked their deaths by smearing blood on themselves. Some have been shot multiple times.
They saw their beloved teachers, Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles, killed as they protected others from gunfire.
Authorities said at least 17 children were hospitalized with injuries, but it’s unclear how many survived. Many of those in the building – and in the community – said their lives would never be the same.
“It’s really hard to deal with everything that’s going on,” said Amber Gonzales, whose 8-year-old daughter Aubree hid under her desk in another classroom during the shooting.
Gonzales said Aubree was still traumatized by what happened.
“She’s terrified of going anywhere without me and her dad,” she said. “She can’t sleep on her own. She is afraid to take a shower alone. She is even afraid to watch a movie alone in the living room. I put her to bed last night and she told me she felt like someone was watching her – she’s really shaken by it.
Aubree told her mother that during the shooting, a woman knocked on her classroom door and “begged the teacher to let her in.”
Her teacher couldn’t unlock the door due to lockdown protocols, she said, and Aubree doesn’t know what happened to the woman or if she was one of the teachers who was killed.
“I can only imagine the fear of hearing him scream, ‘Help!’ Help!” Gonzales said, fighting back tears.
Although she is focused on her daughter’s well-being, Gonzales added that the circumstances have been incredibly difficult to deal with as a parent.
“I’m a mess,” she said. “I’m so grateful to have been able to bring my baby home, tuck her in and be with her.”
Another student, a fourth-grade student who was in the classroom where the shooter opened fire, told San Antonio TV station KENS that the shooter entered the room and said, “He it’s time to die”.
“When I heard gunshots through the door I told my friend to hide under something so he wouldn’t find us,” said the boy, who has not been identified. .
The boy, his best friend and three other students hid under a table with a tablecloth and were able to survive as his teachers and several of his classmates were killed.
“They were good teachers,” he said of Garcia and Mireles. “They went ahead of my classmates to help. To save them.
Other students in the class shared similar horrific stories.
Eleven-year-old Miah Cerillo survived by smearing her friend’s blood on herself and playing dead, her aunt, Blanca Rivera, told NBC News. She was hospitalized with bullet fragments in her back, but has since been released, Rivera said.
Nine-year-old Kendall Olivarez was injured in the attack. She underwent surgery on her arm and was scheduled for further procedures, her aunt, Jennifer Marie Olivarez, said in a Facebook post.
“Thank you so much everyone for the prayers. … We know her guardian angel was protecting her through it all,” she wrote. “She’s going to have so many followings.”
Even those who weren’t in the room had a hard time understanding what had happened.
Adam Pennington, 8, told The Times he was in the principal’s office shortly before the shooting and heard the principal answer a phone call from someone who had seen the shooter walk away. approach.
“Someone jumped the fence earlier with a gun,” Adam said as he heard the caller say.
He and others hid under a table before fleeing to other rooms, including behind curtains in the auditorium, and eventually evacuating to the civic center, where he was reunited with his mother, Laura Pennington, around 1:30 p.m.
Pennington, 37, a substitute teacher in the Uvalde School District, said she plans to transfer her son and move to a smaller district nearby.
Although she criticized the lack of security cameras and guards at the school, she also said she felt law enforcement responded quickly.
“The children were evacuated very quickly. It didn’t take long for me to see him. I felt like they had done a good job,” she said as she stood stood with her son in front of a memorial to the victims, 21 crosses erected in a park downtown.
Monique Hernandez, whose 8-year-old son Joaquin is a sophomore at Robb and survived, said she got a call about the shooting from a family member from law enforcement and immediately rushed to the scene.
She called the teachers who were killed “beautiful, selfless women” who “always did everything for their children” in Robb and would have done anything to protect them during the attack.
When she arrived at school, she said she could see her son’s class but didn’t know where he was.
She eventually realized that he was among the students who had been evacuated to a nearby field and ran to him there.
“He just wanted to go home. He said, ‘Mom, take me home.'”
“Of course, baby,” she recalled telling him as she held back tears on Thursday.
“There are no words to make it OK,” she said, “to make it better.”
Hennessy-Fiske and Rector reported from Uvalde and Smith and Reyes-Velarde from Los Angeles.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.