The typically tranquil community of Uvalde, Texas, was transformed into a picture of unthinkable misery shortly after a shooter started firing at Robb Elementary School.
The sound of gunfire could still be heard inside the school by first responders. Children screamed as their frightened instructors streamed out of every exit. Worried parents hurried to the school, some barefoot, others in business attire, in a frantic hunt for their kids.
As the gunfire continued, several parents went to whatever length to safeguard their kids. Ernest “Chip” King, a Uvalde firefighter who was among the first on the site recalls that dads shattered windows and literally dragged their children out of classrooms. There was a lot of confusion.
A Uvalde cop assisted in escorting pupils to safety. The officer explains teachers were taking student head counts, but there was fear since they couldn’t recall which children had been missing. It was the conclusion of the school year, and many students were absent. He watched one instructor fighting back tears as she questioned the students who had been missing that day.
Firefighters and police officials sought to control the swarm of anxious parents, urgently attempting to impose order on the turmoil. Kings explain, there was a lot of angst and worry. Parents were concerned where their children were, attempting to locate them amid the turmoil. They were scared.
Kings added that they were attempting to secure the area. They collaborated with EMS ambulances to bring them in and out. Helicopters flew overhead.
Within an hour, 500 first responders from as far away as San Antonio, approximately 85 miles away, had gathered on the site.
Rey, an EMT who came to the scene 20 minutes after the shooting and asked to be named only by his first name recalls he was stabilizing a small girl, she was so little. There was blood all around. She was shot in the chest and shoulder. They were attempting to halt the bleeding. He glanced at her and thought, ‘She’s only a baby.’ ‘Who would shoot a child?’
Even as the ambulance drove away from the school, worried parents peered through the windows to see who the patient was. Rey adds everyone was curious. They wanted to be certain it wasn’t their child.
Rey recounts a dad approached him and inquired in Spanish if it was a boy or a girl inside the ambulance. The dad was hunting for his son, and when he informed him it was a girl, he immediately raced to another ambulance.
While many parents experienced heartfelt reunions with their kids, others saw their desperation turn to fear.
King recalls people informed him that they had gone to the two locations where the kids were supposed to be reconnected with their parents, and their kids were not there. Sadly, they were well aware of what that entailed.
Hundreds of people first gathered at a nearby civic building to await reunion with their kids. As the afternoon progressed, the number shrank to dozens, then to a few.
The officer says, as time passed, the parents’ expressions altered. They appeared battered. It was becoming clear that there was an explanation why their son or daughter was not present, and they were at a loss for what to do next.
Parents waited in the waiting area at Uvalde Memorial Hospital. King continued that two ladies were weeping and clutching each other. It was such a gloomy vibe in that waiting room, seeing folks experience the worst day of their life.
As night fell, members of the community started to gather at a makeshift memorial near the school to place flowers, signs, pictures, and plush animals.
King explains this is a tight-knit community. Everyone in this town knows someone who is impacted by this, and most individuals know a lot of people. We have a long way to go in terms of healing.