At 11:06 am on a beautiful sunny Texas day, a Facebook post from Anne Marie Espinoza at Robb Elementary school announced what every parent fears most: “All campuses are under a Lockdown Status.” The message went on to assure parents and residents that “the students and staff are safe in the buildings.” Panicked families converged on the campus and met head-on with law enforcement unwilling to allow anyone past a designated safe perimeter – until all hell broke loose inside the brick-and-mortar walls as a gunman took the lives of 19 students and two teachers.
When Minutes Turn to Hours
For forty minutes, those gathered in front of the school pleaded for officers to move on the gunman who held two adjacent fourth-grade classrooms. Chaos and confusion sparked calls for vigilantism. Frustrated and terrified, bystanders screamed, “go in there! Go in there!”
Javier Cazares raced to the site after hearing the news of a lockdown. His daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, would have completed her fourth-grade year this week. Cazares begged fellow parents and neighborhood residents, “Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to.” He would later learn his daughter was one of the children slain by the disturbed young shooter. Expressing his grief and anger toward first responders, the father stated, “They were unprepared.” He continued, “they said they rushed in and all that. We didn’t see that.”
“This could have been over in a couple of minutes,” one anguished father said. Witnesses described a scene unfolding where officers had to restrain desperate parents physically. The crowd had grown to hundreds, including religious clergy, parents, families, and neighbors. Disorder quickly became mayhem as gunfire shattered the peaceful campus.
Marcela Cabralez, a pastor, reported the surreal environment, “Parents were crying, and some were fighting verbally with the police and screaming that they wanted their children.”
One local small business owner, Miguel Palacios, recalls, “parents were on one side of the fence, the Border Patrol and police were on the other side of the fence, and they were trying to tear it open.”
An off-duty Border Patrol officer, Jacob Albarado, came on the scene. Parents and bystanders began to see action. Albarado’s wife, Trisha, a teacher at the school that his second-grade daughter also attended, had sent him a text message, “There’s an active shooter. Help. I love you.” Albarado knew where his wife’s classroom was located and that so far, they were unharmed and hiding under desks. His daughter was locked in a bathroom. Albarado did what needed to be done. He would later explain to reporters, “I’m looking for my daughter, but I also know what wing she’s in, so I start clearing all the classes in her wing.” One man, visibly frustrated and nervously pacing with hands over his head, threw his arms to the heavens as students began running toward him, freed by Albarado’s strategic actions.
Griefs So Loud
Poet May Sarton once wrote, “There are some griefs so loud, they could bring down the sky.” And on that beautiful Texas spring day in Uvalde, the sky did indeed come down. On a day when students, teachers, and their families were eager to break for summer and the promises of pool time, vacation, and relaxation, funeral arrangements are being made instead.
Angel Garza lost his 10-year-old daughter Amerie and posted on social media, “My little love is now flying high with the angels above. Please don’t take a second for granted. Hug your family. Tell them you love them.” And as the tragic day came to a close, one fourth-grader who made it home to grateful parents asked the most important question of all: “Why did they do this to us? We’re good kids. We didn’t do anything wrong.”