A Shattered City – The New York Times

My colleague Jack Healy is in Uvalde, Texas, reporting on the school shooting that killed 19 children and two adults. He spoke to the families of the victims about their grief and anger at the police’s handling of the shooting.

I wanted to give you an idea of ​​how the people in Uvalde are coping with the violence. So I called Jack.

What did you see when you first arrived in Uvalde?

Bewildered sadness.

I arrived here the next morning and started driving to the homes of the parents and grandparents of the children who had died.

This is a predominantly Latino city. Many of the children lived in multi-generational households, with grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. These children lived next to or around the corner from relatives, who often took them to school.

The day after, these relatives began to gather to dissect what had happened — not even to understand it, but trying to process the reality that 10-year-old children had been taken from them.

It makes no sense.

Yes. For many of them, it was like coming to terms with the fact that the last day hadn’t been some sort of horrible dream.

The process of getting the news was also traumatic. Some families didn’t find out for almost 12 hours. They got conflicting information from social media, from people in the community.

There were two girls named Eliana – one spelled Eliahana – who were killed. There is a minute-long name confusion between the two that makes them wonder which one was theirs or if theirs had really been murdered. It was chaos.

How was daily life disrupted?

This shooting came a few days before what would have been the end of the school year. These children were on the slide towards the summer holidays. That day they had a roll of honor ceremony and parents had been there to take pictures of their children overjoyed to receive their certificates.

The shooting ended the school year abruptly. High school graduations were postponed.

People were also getting ready for Memorial Day weekend. This is beautiful hill and river country. People planned barbecues or floats on the river or went to a cabin or campsite.

You’ve probably heard things that will stay with you for years.

Human, yes.

I spoke to the grandfather of one of the murdered girls, Eliahana Cruz Torres. He was her step-dad. He and his wife, Eliahana’s biological grandmother, had raised her from the age of four. After moving in with them, Eliahana often slept between Grandma and Grandpa because she didn’t want to sleep alone. She was writhing in bed and would ask him to tickle her feet. She’d say, “I love you, Grandpa.”

He said he collapsed when she first called him Grandpa. It was one of the most moving and important things anyone had ever said to him.

There are now 21 families in the city who tell such stories.

What do people do to support each other?

Unfortunately, there is a well-known charity script when mass shootings occur. The Red Cross is here. Southern Baptist volunteers have prayed on street corners. Starbucks in San Antonio sent employees because so many Starbucks employees were affected here and needed to be with their families.

There have also been smaller acts of kindness: family members bringing bottles of water, toilet paper and food to people’s homes. Everyone knows they can’t fix this. But they do what they can. Often that is just being there.

you wrote about the arms debate in Uvalde† In previous shootings, survivors and other victims became involved in gun control activism. Did that happen there?

That’s a complicated question here. This is rural, in south Texas. Weapons are intertwined with politics and culture. Some people in the city support the reflexive Republican stance that more “good guys with guns” are needed, despite the many problems with the police response. Many families are fed up and think it is unscrupulous that an 18-year-old was able to buy two assault rifles. But it’s a quiet conversation.

Even from a distance it is difficult to tell these stories. Just looking at pictures of these kids breaks my heart. How do you approach your reporting in the field?

As journalists, we collectively don’t think enough about what we’re doing to these communities.

The neighborhood of the school is full of television trucks and SUVs and cars rented by journalists. Outside the school are blocks full of tents where TV reporters do their thing. It’s like a political convention.

Families are constantly being called and knocked on the door. Many of them want to share their story and feel it is important for the world to see who their children were and what made them special. The first few times people appreciate it. But after the 20th person knocks on your door, it can become another wound.

I don’t know what the solution is. There is a lot of important journalism to do about these issues, about these families and these children and the shortcomings in response to the shooting. It is very important to tell these stories.

More about Jack Healy: He landed his first full-time journalism job as an intern at The Times before going full-time in 2008. He covered the Iraq War and now works as a national correspondent in Phoenix.

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