A Shattered Town – The New York Times
My colleague Jack Healy was in Uvalde, Texas, reporting on a school shooting that killed 19 children and two adults. He spoke to the victim’s family about their pain and angry about the police handling of the shooting.
I want to tell you how people in Uvalde are handling violence. So I called Jack.
What did you see when you first arrived in Uvalde?
I got here the next morning, and I started driving to the homes of the dead children’s parents and grandparents.
This is a predominantly Latino town. Many children live in multigenerational households, with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. These children live next door or around the corner with family members who often take them to school.
The next day, these family members started gathering to re-analyze what happened – not even understanding it, but trying to make sense of the fact that the 10-year-olds were taken by them. .
It has no meaning.
YES. For many of them, it’s like accepting the fact that the last day isn’t some horrible dream.
The process of receiving the news was also very painful. Some families went undetected for nearly 12 hours. They receive mixed information from social networks, from people in the community.
Two girls named Eliana – one spelled Eliahana – were killed. There was a name confusion between the two for a minute that made them wonder which one was theirs or if they were really killed. It was chaos.
How is daily life disrupted?
This shooting took place a few days before the end of the school year. These kids are on their way to summer vacation. They had a ceremony that day, and parents were there, taking pictures of their overjoyed kids receiving their certificates.
The sudden shooting ended the school year. High school graduation has been postponed.
Everyone is also gearing up for Memorial Day weekend. This is a beautiful country, many hills and rivers. People are planning to have a barbecue or float in the river, board a cabin or camp.
You may have heard things that will stick with you for years.
I spoke with the grandfather of one of the girls who was killed, Eliahana Cruz Torres. He is her step-husband. He and his wife, Eliahana’s biological grandmother, have raised her since she was four years old. After moving in with them, Eliahana often slept between her grandmother and grandfather because she did not want to sleep alone. She is nursing in bed and will ask you to tickle her feet. She will say, “I love you, Grandpa.”
He said he broke down when she first called him Grandpa. It was one of the most touching and important things anyone had ever said to him.
There are 21 families across town telling such stories now.
What are people doing to support each other?
Unfortunately, there is a book for charities set up when mass shootings happen. The Red Cross is here. Southern Baptist volunteers prayed on street corners. Starbucks in San Antonio sent workers because so many Starbucks employees here were affected and had to stay with their families.
There are also smaller acts of kindness: family members bring bottled water, toilet paper and food to homestays. Everyone knows they can’t fix this. But they do what they can. Often, that’s just the present.
You wrote about gun debate in Uvalde. In previous shootings, survivors and others affected have engaged in gun control. Did that happen there?
That’s a complicated question here. This is rural, southern Texas. Guns are woven into politics and culture. Some in town reflexively supported the Republican view of needing more “good guys with guns,” despite problems with the police response. Many families are fed up and consider it unconscionable for an 18-year-old to buy two rifles. But it was a quiet conversation.
Even from a distance, covering these stories is difficult. Just looking at the pictures of these kids breaks my heart. How do you approach your report in the field?
All in all, we don’t think enough, as journalists, about what we do for these communities.
The school’s neighborhood was packed with TV vans, SUVs, and rental cars from journalists. There were rows of houses outside the school crammed with tents, where television reporters were doing their thing. It looks like a political congress.
Families are constantly receiving calls and knocks on the door. A lot of them want to share their stories and think it’s important for the world to see who their children are and what makes them special. The first few times, people appreciate it. But after the 20th person knocks on your door, it can turn into another heartbreak.
I don’t know what the solution is. There’s a lot of important journalism to do about these issues, about these families and children, and the setbacks after the shootings. Telling these stories is really important.
More information about Jack Healy: He took his first full-time journalism job as an intern at The Times before joining full-time in 2008. He covered the war in Iraq and currently works as a national correspondent in Phoenix. .