Uvalde, Texas — Kimberly Rubio started running three years ago, inspired by her fitness-obsessed mother.
Now she’s running to process the pain that’s been going on for nearly a year since the May 24, 2022 tragedy that killed one of her daughters in her hometown of Uvalde, Texas. she says.
Kimberly Rubio said on “20/20”, “It’s the only time I’ve ever seriously considered what happened that day.” “If there was a place I could escape from this pain, I would have already booked the flight.”
Families all over Uvalde shared an intimate and unimaginable journey over the past year for a special “20/20” report documenting the long-term impacts communities face after the mass shooting. The special, part of a year-long on-the-ground coverage effort, will premiere on ABC on Friday, May 19 at 8 p.m. Central Time and stream on Hulu the next day.
Kimberly Rubio and her husband, Felix Rubio, are the parents of Alexandria “Lexi” Rubio, one of the 21 victims killed in the Robb Elementary School shooting.
“I shouldn’t have been here to explain her,” said Kimberly Rubio. “She should have made her own mark in this world.” “Lexi’s parenting isn’t over yet.”
Felix said he visits his daughter’s grave almost every day, talks to her and kisses the gravestone.
“I was supposed to pick her up from school. Everyone knows I didn’t,” said Felix Rubio. “In a way, I think she expects me to pick her up because she comes out every day.”
It was Lexi’s last home, but they decided it was best to move to a new house across town.
In August 2022, the couple sat across from each other on the living room floor packing the mementos they had collected from all of their children. Among them was a crayon drawing of Lexie, which Kimberly later tattooed on her arm.
Watch: ABC News Special ‘Commanding Crisis’ Investigates Uvalde’s Failure
“When everything was taken out, it was just me and Kim,” Felix Rubio said. “I called Lexie over and yelled, ‘It’s time to go, Lexie.’ That must have been hard.”
The parents of 9-year-old Jacquelyn Cazares, Gloria Cazares and Javier Cazares, said their daughter and the events of May 24 are always on their minds.
“I think she knows how much we miss her,” said Gloria Cazares. “How desperate I am to give her that one hug.”
Jackie’s sister Jazmine Cazares channeled her grief into her activism in many ways throughout the year.
“I’m always fighting,” said Jazmine Cazares. “But the hardest part is when I’m home. You don’t know when I’m ugly crying in my sister’s room.”
Javier and Jazmine Cazares showed “20/20” Jackie’s bedroom, where the family rests. The walls inside are covered with photographs and tributes to Jackie. Some items remain where Jackie left them, such as jewels on the dresser and colorful lights hanging from the ceiling.
“I come here morning and night and talk to her as if she were here,” said Javier Cazares. “There she used to hear her giggling and talking.”
For the teachers and students who were at Robb Elementary School that day, surviving came with waves of physical and emotional repercussions.
Ernie Reyes has been an educator for nearly 20 years and was a 4th grade teacher last year. He was in a classroom with 11 of his students at Robb Elementary School and was the only person to survive from that room.
Reyes’ classroom was connected by an internal double door to that of teachers Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles, who were shot dead along with eight students.
“As an educator, you would never think of losing a student,” Ernie Reyes said. “But to lose 11 people at once, and then lose another colleague, and then lose another little kid you know who was in that class, that’s a lot at once.”
Reyes, who suffered gunshot wounds to his arm and back, cited the “struggle of going from Pilperson to Pilperson”, in which medication and physical examinations were routine.
Reyes “hopes to go back to class someday,” but has decided not to return to teaching to focus on his rehabilitation at home. I often sat in
“Everything stopped,” Reyes recalls. “I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t want to go out… Staying at home for a long time makes me go out into society and try to do normal things as much as I can normally… And they bring everything back to you, so it’s It was a little difficult.”
Reyes recognizes that this anxiety is not something someone deliberately surfaces in public, but it is one of the challenges survivors like him face. I hope you will recognize me.
“I want them to always remember 21.” [victims]When asked what he hoped viewers would learn from watching the “20/20” special, Reyes said: “Of course I don’t think they’ll ever forget. But I think they also need to remember the survivors. A lot of the focus is on the 21st and I’m not going to take it off of it. Many survivors, we still have to live with pain and suffering.”
Parents of children who were in the immediate vicinity of the shooting said they were seeing how their families would never be the same.
Nine-year-old Daniel Garza survived a stray bullet that appeared to have penetrated a wall on May 24 after wounding his teacher in a classroom.
Danielle’s mother, Brianna Lewis, said her son was “always smiling” and “funny and laid back” before the shooting.
“He’s still funny, but now I’m really worried,” said Briana Lewis. “A lot of people don’t see when he’s having an anxiety attack or when he’s having PTSD… I never imagined there would be so many disorders and effects.”
A few weeks after the shooting, Daniel said he was waking up at night and unable to sleep at night. Briana Lewis said she learned that it was important for her family to attend therapy sessions and talk openly with each other, and she made a routine with her family to attend counseling sessions available at Uvalde, she said. Told.
“I’ve been able to talk more with my therapist,” said Daniel Garza. “She gave me a marker and a notebook so she could write what was causing her to wake up in the middle of the night.”
The start of the new school year has raised new concerns about the safety of children returning to classrooms. With Robb Elementary School closed, students staying at Uvalde transferred to one of her three other district elementary schools. Some students have transitioned to private Uvalde schools and virtual learning options from home.
Daniel Garza chose to start fifth grade at an elementary school in a new school district near where his mother used to teach kindergarten in the neighboring city of Sabinal. He also said he felt safer at Sabinal Primary School because the building has secure doors and teachers are allowed to carry weapons inside the school.
On a weekday evening in the fall, as the sun went down at Uvalde’s community field, Daniel attended youth soccer practice with his young teammates. The new season saw him play tackle football for the first time.
“I had a lot of anger inside me, so I chose to get back on the field,” Daniel said. “I think it has eased some of my anger…all the support, it makes me happy.”
“Daniel is starting to make some progress. Keeping him busy and starting to see another side of healing is starting to help him,” said Briana Lewis.
Former Robb Elementary students like Caitlin Gonzalez have also experienced the toll May 24th took on them. She was in the classroom across the hall from Reyes.
Caitlin asked her mother, Gladys Gonzalez, to sleep with her the night after the shooting because she didn’t feel safe in the dark or alone.
Gladys Gonzalez said, “As the nights go on, you can see how anxiety starts to build up. She needs reassurance all the time.”
Caitlin’s parents discussed “20/20” how to overcome the PTSD Caitlin reportedly experienced. Caitlin often keeps noise-cancelling headphones nearby because loud noises tend to trigger anxiety.
Families have learned to communicate before completing some routine tasks, such as taking a bag of hardened ice out of the freezer.
“When my dad tells me to break the ice, he tells me when to go to another room,” Kaitlyn said.
“This PTSD comes in many forms,” said Gladys Gonzalez. “She can see her headache and stomachache.”
Caitlin said that with the help of a therapist she was able to get herself back to sleep again and did so for about three weeks. At the time, “20/20” asked about Caitlin’s sleep habits in March 2023.
Gladys Gonzalez said she felt she had a “bright future” for Kaitlyn, but the family was focused on “getting through the days that have passed”.
Caitlin is routinely driven to Uvalde after school by her parents for various activities such as girl scouts, karate, and guitar.
Video: Uvalde School Shooting Survivor Tells His Story Through Photos
These extracurricular activities are in addition to weekly therapy appointments and a commute of about 90 minutes each way to San Antonio.
“Our main goal was to take Caitlin’s mind away from the shooting,” said Caitlin’s father, Nef Gonzalez.
Caitlin, who was 10 years old at the time of the shooting, said she shared her experience on 20/20, saying, “Don’t let other kids go through what I and my friends went through.” .
During her runs, Kimberly Rubio sometimes stops in front of a statue of her daughter, Lexie, painted on a brick building in downtown Uvalde. This is his one in a series of murals created by the Texas artist to honor the lives lost.
Kimberly Rubio says the mural is a favorite place for her and other mothers to visit because it contains memories of the joy, pain and balance left by victims, and the motivation to keep going. said.
“It’s easy to want to put aside all the bad things in the world,” said Kimberly Rubio.
ABC News’ Ismael Estrada, Andrew Fredericks, Dennis Martinez Ramundo, Tomas Nabia, Elissa Stoller, Megan Hunderstreet and Mary Ellen Schwysaw contributed to this report.
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