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Uvalde Fourth Graders Waited An Hour With Wounded Teacher


UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Elsa Avila slid to her phone, terrified as she held the bleeding side of her abdomen and tried to remain calm for her students. In a text to her family that she meant to send to fellow Uvalde teachers, she wrote: “I’m shot.”

For the primary time in 30 years, Avila is not going to be going back to high school as classes resume Tuesday within the small, southwest Texas city. The beginning of college will look different for her, as for other survivors of the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School during which 21 people died, with an emphasis on healing, each physically and mentally. Some have opted for virtual education, others for personal school. Many will return to Uvalde school district campuses, though Robb Elementary itself won’t ever reopen.

“I’m attempting to make sense of all the pieces,” Avila said in an August interview, “nevertheless it is rarely going to make sense.”

A scar down her torso brings her to tears as a everlasting reminder of the horror she endured together with her 16 students as they waited of their classroom for an hour for help while a gunman slaughtered 19 children and two teachers in two adjoining classrooms nearby.

Minutes before she felt the sharp pain of the bullet piercing her intestine and colon, Avila was motioning students away from the partitions and windows and closer to her. A student lined up by the door for recess had just told her something was happening outside: People were running — and screaming. As she slammed the classroom door so the lock would catch, her students took their well-practiced lockdown positions.

Moments later, a gunman stormed into their fourth-grade wing and commenced spraying bullets before ultimately making his way into rooms 111 and 112.

In room 109, Avila repeatedly texted for help, in keeping with messages reviewed by The Associated Press. First at 11:35 a.m. within the text to her family that she says was meant for the teacher group chat. Then at 11:38 in a message to the varsity’s vice principal. At 11:45, she responded to a text from the varsity’s counselor asking if her classroom was on lockdown with: “I’m shot, send help.” And when the principal assured her that help was on the way in which, she replied simply: “Help.”

“Yes they’re coming,” the principal wrote back at 11:48 a.m.

It’s unclear whether her messages were relayed to police. District officials didn’t reply to requests for comment on actions taken to speak with law enforcement on May 24, and an attorney for then-Principal Mandy Gutierrez was not available for comment.

In keeping with a legislative committee’s report that described a botched police response, nearly 400 local, state and federal officers stood within the hallway of the fourth-grade wing or outside the constructing for 77 minutes before some finally entered the adjoining classrooms and killed the gunman. Lawmakers also found a relaxed approach to lockdowns — which happened often — and security concerns, including issues with door locks. State and federal investigations into the shooting are ongoing.

The district is working to finish latest security measures, and the varsity board in August fired the district’s police chief, Pete Arredondo. Residents say it stays unclear how — or even when — trust between the community and officials will be rebuilt, at the same time as some call for more accountability, higher police training and stricter gun safety laws.

Avila recalls hearing the ominous bursts of rapid fire, then silence, then the voices of officers within the hallway yelling, “Crossfire!” and later more officers standing nearby.

“But still no one got here to assist us,” she said.

As Avila lay motionless, unable to talk loud enough to be heard, a few of her students nudged and shook her. She wished for the strength to inform them she was still alive.

A lightweight flashed into their window, but no one identified themselves. Scared it may be the gunman, the scholars moved away.

“The little girls closest to me kept patting me and telling me, ‘It’s going to be OK miss. We love you miss,’” Avila said.

Finally, at 12:33 p.m. a window in her classroom broke. Officers arrived to evacuate her students — the last to be set free in the world, in keeping with Avila.

Together with her remaining strength, Avila pulled herself up and helped usher students onto chairs and tables and thru the window. Then, clutching her side, she told an officer she was too weak to leap herself. He got here through the window to tug her out.

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

She remembers being taken to the airport, where a helicopter flew her to a San Antonio hospital. She was out and in of care until June 18.

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

“I’m very pleased with them because they were in a position to stay calm for an entire hour that we were in there terrified,” Avila said.

As her students prepare to return to high school for the primary time since that traumatic day, Avila is on the method to recovery, walking as much as eight minutes at a time on the treadmill in physical therapy and going to counseling. She looks forward to teaching again someday.

Outside of a shuttered Robb Elementary, a memorial for the people killed overflows at the doorway gate. Teachers from across Texas stopped by this summer to pay their respects and reflect on what they’d do in the identical situation.

“If I survive, I even have to be sure that they survive first,” said Olga Oglin, an educator of 23 years from Dallas, her voice breaking.

“Whatever happens to a student at our faculty, it just happens to considered one of my kids,” Olgin said, adding that because the person to greet parents, students and staff on the door within the mornings, she likely could be the primary person shot.

Ofelia Loyola, who teaches elementary school in San Antonio, visited together with her husband, middle school teacher Raul Loyola. She was baffled at the delayed response from law enforcement, as seen on security and police video.

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

Last week, Avila and a number of other of her students met for the end-of-year party they were unable to have in May. They played within the pool at a rustic club and she or he gave them each a bracelet with a bit cross to remind them that “God was with us that day and so they should not alone,” she said.

“We all the time talked about being kind, being respectful, caring for one another — and so they were in a position to try this on that day,” Avila said.

“They took care of one another. They took care of me.”

This story was updated to correct that Uvalde is in southwest Texas, not within the state’s southeast.

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

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