UVALDE, Texas — After the shots rang out at Robb Elementary School, parents began frantically searching for the children they hadn’t heard from.
One mother, Maria Garcia, was near the school questioning a law enforcement officer hours after the shooting because she was still looking for her 10-year-old daughter.
Her voice quivered as she tried to get answers to her string of questions, suggesting maybe she was hiding in fields nearby after a gunman opened fire at the school, killing at least 19 children and two teachers.
Rosa Arizmendia and Roland Arizmendia also were searching. Their daughter was safe because they had picked her up early after an awards ceremony at the school. But they didn’t know where their niece was. They had seen her when they got their daughter, and Roland Arizmendia yelled out, “Hi, mija!” to her. He hadn’t heard from her since.
He said the whole family was trying to find her by calling hospitals and the police and fire departments.
“It’s like a horror movie,” Rosa Arizmendia said. “If it’s not our kid, it’s someone we know. It’s our neighbors.”
Melissa Arredondo, 38, was at work at a convenience store when news of the shooting popped up on colleagues’ phones, and they told her what was happening.
Her son, José, 10, was in the classroom next to the room where many of the children and the teacher were shot. She said her son told her someone broke the back window and the students crawled out of it to safety.
But it was an hour before Arredondo knew whether her son was OK.
“It felt like my heart was in my throat,” she said.
She said that her son had asked to leave after the awards ceremony but that her husband told him to finish the school day. As they waited for news about José, her husband was upset that he hadn’t let their son go home early.
“As soon as I heard my son was fine, my heart just kind of, it was still sunk in for everybody else, because as a mother who has lost a child, I know the feeling,” Arredondo said. She lost a child to sudden infant death syndrome and had a miscarriage.
She said she didn’t know what the future would be like for her son after such a traumatic event.
“I know it takes time to heal and then to grieve over his classmates,” she said.
She said that she used to have drills when she was in school for potential shootings and that she advised her children in the past to make sure they found a corner to hide in if there was a shooting. She said she hadn’t been able to talk with her son yet about what he did when the gunfire started.
Juan Diego Barrera, 39, a neighbor of the grandmother of the suspect, Salvador Ramos, said he had known Ramos since the suspect was about 12 and that he was always shy and quiet. Law enforcement officials said Ramos, 18, may have shot his grandmother before he went to the school.
Barrera said the gunman’s truck, which he had seen on social media stuck in a canal near the school, looked like the one that was always parked under a tree in front of the house.
He said Ramos didn’t live at the home with his grandmother but visited often. He said that he worked with the suspect’s mother at a local restaurant and that Ramos and his older sister would often come in and wait for their mother.
Barrera said that he is a gun owner and that as soon as he heard about the shooting, “I called my wife and told her to close the door and load the guns” for her safety. He has three high school students who were in lockdown for about three hours when the shooting started at the elementary school.