UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Elsa Avila slithered to her phone, terrified as she held the bleeding side of her abdomen and tried to stay calm for her students. In a text to her family that she intended to send to other teachers at Uvalde, she wrote: “I am devastated.
For the first time in 30 years, Avila will not return to school as classes resume Tuesday in the small southwest Texas town. Back to school will be different for her, as for the other survivors of the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School during which 21 people died, with an emphasis on healing, both physical and mental. Some have opted for virtual education, others for private school. Many will return to Uvalde School District campuses, although Robb Elementary itself will never reopen.
“I try to make sense of everything,” Avila said in an August interview, “but it will never make sense.”
A scar on her chest brings her to tears as a permanent reminder of the horror she endured with her 16 students as they waited in their classroom for an hour for help while a gunman massacred 19 children and two teachers in two nearby nearby classrooms.
Minutes before she felt the sharp pain of the bullet piercing her gut and colon, Avila was pulling the students away from walls and windows and closer to her. A student lined up by the door for recess had just told her that something was going on outside: people were running — and screaming. As she slammed the classroom door for the lock to engage, her students took their well-practiced locking positions.
Moments later, a gunman burst into their fourth-year wing and began spraying bullets before finally making his way into rooms 111 and 112.
In room 109, Avila repeatedly texted asking for help, according to messages reviewed by The Associated Press. First at 11:35 in the text to her family which she says was for the teacher group chat. Then at 11:38 p.m. in a message to the vice principal of the school. At 11:45 p.m., she responded to a text from the school counselor asking if her class was closed with, “I’m getting shot, send help.” And when the principal assured her that help was on the way, she simply replied: “Help”.
“Yes, they are coming,” replied the manager at 11:48.
It is not known if his messages were passed on to the police. District officials did not respond to requests for comment on steps taken to contact law enforcement on May 24, and an attorney for then-principal Mandy Gutierrez was unavailable for comment. .
According to the report of a legislative committee which describes a botched police response, nearly 400 local, state and federal agents stood in the hallway of the fourth-grade wing or outside the building for 77 minutes before some eventually entered adjacent classrooms and killed the shooter. Lawmakers have also found a relaxed approach to lockdowns – what often happened — and security issues, including issues with door locks. State and federal investigations into the shooting are ongoing.
The district is working to complete new safety measures, and the school board in August fired the district police chief, Pete Arredondo. Residents say it remains unclear how – or even if – trust between community and officials can be rebuilteven as some call for more accountability, better police training and tougher gun safety laws.
Avila remembers hearing the ominous bursts of rapid fire, then silence, then the voices of officers in the hallway shouting, “Crossfire! and later other officers standing nearby.
“But still nobody came to help us,” she said.
As Avila lay motionless, unable to speak loud enough to be heard, some of her students pushed and shook her. She wished she had the strength to tell them she was still alive.
A light flashed in their window, but no one identified themselves. I’m afraid it’s the shooter, the students walked away.
“The little girls closest to me kept stroking me and saying, ‘It’s going to be okay miss. We love you miss,” Avila said.
Eventually, at 12:33 p.m., a window in his classroom shattered. Officers arrived to evacuate his students – the last to be released in the area, according to Avila.
With her remaining strength, Avila got up and helped the students onto the chairs and tables and through the window. Then, holding her side, she told an officer she was too weak to jump herself. He came through the window to get her out.
“I never saw my children again. I know they came out the window and I could just hear them saying, “Run, run, run!” Avila said.
She remembers being taken to the airport, where a helicopter took her to a hospital in San Antonio. She was supported and unsupported until June 18.
Avila later learned that a student in her class had been injured by shrapnel in the nose and mouth, but had since been released from medical treatment. She said other students helped their injured classmates until the police arrived.
“I’m very proud of them because they were able to stay calm for an entire hour while we were terrified,” Avila said.
As her students prepare to return to school for the first time since that traumatic day, Avila is on the verge of recovery, walking up to eight minutes at a time on the physiotherapy treadmill and going to counseling . She looks forward to teaching again one day.
Outside a closed Robb Elementary, a memorial for those killed overflows the front door. Teachers from across Texas stopped by this summer to pay their respects and reflect on what they would do in the same situation.
“If I survive, I have to make sure they survive first,” said Olga Oglin, a 23-year-old educator from Dallas, her voice cracking.
“Whatever happens to a student at our school, it happens to one of my children,” Olgin said, adding that as the person who greets parents, students and staff at the door in the morning , she would likely be the first person shot. .
Ofelia Loyola, who teaches elementary school in San Antonio, visited her husband, middle school teacher Raul Loyola. She was confused late response from law enforcementas seen on security and police video.
“They are all children. No matter how old they are, you protect them,” she said.
Last week, Avila and several of her students got together for the end-of-year party they were unable to organize in May. They played in a country club pool and she gave them each a bracelet with a little cross to remind them that “God was with us that day and they were not alone,” she said. declared.
“We always talked about being kind, being respectful, taking care of each other – and they were able to do that that day,” Avila said.
“They took care of each other. They took care of me.
This story has been updated to correct that Uvalde is in southwest Texas, not the southeast of the state.
More about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting