16 Uvalde fourth graders waited an hour with wounded teacher

Retired teachers Raul Noyola and Ophelia Noyola visit a memorial in honor of school shooting victims on July 12 at Rob Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. (Eric Gay, Associated Press)

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UVALDE, Texas – Elsa Avila flipped over her phone, panicked as she grabbed the bleeding part of her stomach and tried to be calm for her students. In a text to her family that she wanted to send to fellow Uvalde teachers, she wrote: “I’ve been shot.”

For the first time in 30 years, Avila will not go back to school as classes resume Tuesday in the small southwest Texas town. The start of school will look different for him, as will the other survivors of the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School that killed 21 people, with an emphasis on healing both physically and mentally. Some have opted for virtual education, others for private school. Many will return to Uvalde School District campuses, although Rob Elementary itself will never reopen.

“I’m trying to understand everything,” Avila said in an August interview, “but it’s never going to make sense.”

A scar under his torso brings him to tears as an enduring memory of the horrors he endured with 16 of his students as they waited in their class for an hour for help while a gunman passed by. 19 children and two teachers were murdered in two classes of

Minutes before she felt the sharp pain of the bullet in her intestine and colon, Avila was leading the students away from walls and windows and closer to her. A student standing by the door for recess had just told him that something was happening outside: people were running – and screaming. As she slammed the classroom door to lock it in, her students took their well-practiced lockdown position.

Moments later, a gunman broke into their fourth-class wing and began spraying bullets before finally going to rooms 111 and 112.

In room 109, Avila repeatedly texted for help, according to messages reviewed by the Associated Press. First in a text to her family at 11:35 a.m. she says she was there for the teacher group chat. Then at 11:38 in a message to the Vice Principal of the school. At 11:45, she responded to a text from the school’s counselor asking if her class was on lockdown: “I’ve been shot, send help.” And when the principal assured him that help was on the way, he simply replied: “Help.”

“Yeah they’re coming,” wrote the principal back at 11:48

It is not clear whether his messages were sent to the police. District officials did not respond to requests for comment on the actions taken to communicate with law enforcement on May 24, and an attorney for then-principal Mandy Gutierrez was not available for comment.

According to a legislative committee report that described a failed police response, about 400 local, state and federal officers stood in the hallway of the fourth grade wing or outside the building for 77 minutes, before some Entered the surrounding classrooms and killed the gunman. Lawmakers also found a comfortable approach to the lockdown – which it often was – and security concerns, including the issue of door locks. State and federal investigations into the shooting are ongoing.

The district is working to roll out new security measures, and the school board fired Pete Arredondo, the district’s police chief, in August. Residents say it’s not clear how – or even how – trust can be rebuilt between the community and officers, even as some lead to greater accountability, better police training. And calls for stricter gun safety laws.

Avila remembers hearing ominous bursts of loud fire, then silence, then the voices of officers in the hallway shouting, “Crossfire!” And later more officers were standing nearby.

“But still no one came to our aid,” she said.

As Avila lay motionless, unable to speak loud enough to be heard, some of her students pushed and shook her. He wished them the power to tell them that he was still alive.

A light shone in his window, but no one recognized himself. Fearing it might be the gunman, the students left.

Avila said, “The little girls closest to me kept patting me and telling me, ‘It’ll be okay, Miss. We love you, Miss,'” Avila said.

Finally at 12:33 pm a window in his classroom was broken. According to Avila, officers arrived to evacuate her students—the last to go out in the area.

With all his remaining strength, Avila pulled himself up and helped the students to the chairs and tables and through the window. Then, holding his side, he told an officer that he was too weak to jump himself. He came through the window to take her out.

“I never saw my kids again. I know they climbed out the window and I could just hear them say, ‘Run, run, run!’ Avila said.

He remembers being taken to the airport, where a helicopter took him to a San Antonio hospital. She was in and out of care till June 18.

Avila later learned that she had been injured when a student in her class was hit by shrapnel in her nose and mouth, but has since been released from medical care. She said other students helped their injured classmates until the officers arrived.

“I’m very proud of them because they were able to stay calm for an entire hour that we were scared there,” Avila said.

As her students prepare to return to school for the first time since that painful day, Avila is on her way to recovery, running for eight minutes at a time on a treadmill in physical therapy and going in for counseling. He looks forward to teaching again someday.

A memorial to those killed by an overflow at the entrance, outside a closed robe Elementary. Teachers 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 teacher from Dallas, her voice breaking.

“Everything that happens to a student at our school, happens to one of my kids,” said Olgin, as the person greeted parents, students and staff at the door in the morning, He would be the first person shot.

Ophelia Loyola, who teaches elementary school in San Antonio, went with her husband, middle school teacher Raul Loyola. As can be seen in the security and police video, she was appalled by the delayed response from law enforcement.

“They’re all kids. It doesn’t matter how old they are, you protect them,” she said.

Last week, Avila and several of her students met for a year-end party, which they hadn’t been able to do in May. They played in the pool at a country club and she gave each a bracelet with a small cross to remind them that “God was with us that day and he is not alone,” she said.

“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.”


More on the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting

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