UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Elsa Avila slid into her phone, terrified as she clutched the side of her bleeding stomach and tried to remain calm for her students. In a text to his family he wanted to send to fellow teacher Uvalde, he wrote: “I was shot.”

For the first time in 30 years, Avila will not return to school when classes resume Tuesday in the small southeastern Texas town. The start of school will look different for him, as for other survivors of the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School where 21 people died, with an emphasis on healing, both physical and mental. Some have opted for virtual education, others for private schools. Many will return to the campus of the Uvalde school district, although Robb Elementary himself will never reopen.

“I tried to understand everything,” Avila said in an August interview, “but it would never make sense.”

The scars on his body made him cry as a permanent reminder of the horrors he endured with his 16 students as they waited in their class for an hour for help. while a gunman slaughtered 19 children and two teachers in two adjacent classrooms nearby.

A few minutes before she felt the sharp pain of the bullet going through her intestines and colon, Avila ordered the students away from the walls and windows and towards her. A student lining up at the door for recess just told him that something was going on outside: People were running around – and screaming. When he slams the classroom door so the key can be locked, his students assume the well-practiced locking position.

Moments later, a gunman burst into their fourth-class wing and began spraying bullets before finally breaking into rooms 111 and 112.

In room 109, Avila repeatedly texted asking for help, according to messages reviewed by The Associated Press. First at 11:35 in a text to his family which he said was meant for a teacher group chat. Then at 11.38 a message was sent to the vice principal. At 11:45, he responded to a message from the school counselor asking if his class was locked with: “I’ve been shot, send help.” And when the principal reassured him that help was on the way, he simply replied: “Help.”

“Yes they are coming,” the principal wrote at 11:48am

It is not clear if the message was passed on to the police. District officials did not respond to requests for comment on the actions taken to communicate with law enforcement on May 24, and an attorney for Principal Mandy Gutierrez was not available for comment at the time.

According to a legislative committee report describing the failed police response, nearly 400 local, state and federal officers stood in the fourth-class wing hallway or outside the building for 77 minutes before several finally entered an adjoining classroom and killed the gunman. MPs have also found a relaxed approach to the lockdown—which is often the case — and security issues, including problems with door locks. State and federal investigations into the shooting are ongoing.

The district is working to finalize new security measures, and the school board in August fired the district police chief, Pete Arredondo. Residents say it remains unclear how — or even if — trust between the community and officials can be rebuilteven as some call for greater accountability, better police training, and stricter gun safety laws.

Avila remembered hearing rapid bursts of fire, then silence, then the voice of the officer in the hallway shouting, “Crossfire!” and then more officers stood nearby.

“But still no one came to help us,” he said.

As Avila lay motionless, unable to speak loud enough to be heard, several of her students nudged her and shook her. He wished for the power to tell them he was still alive.

A light flashed through their window, but neither identified themselves. Afraid it might be the gunman, students walk away.

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

Finally at 12:33 the window in his class broke. Officers arrived to evacuate his students – the latter left in the area, according to Avila.

With her remaining strength, Avila pulled herself up and helped usher the students to chairs and tables and through the windows. Then, clutching his waist, he told an officer that he was too weak to jump on his own. He comes through the window to pull her out.

“I never saw my children again. I knew they were climbing out the window and all I could hear was them saying, ‘Run, run, run!’” Avila said.

He remembers being taken to the airport, where a helicopter flew him to a San Antonio hospital. He was in and out of treatment until June 18.

Avila later learned that a student in her class was injured by shrapnel in the nose and mouth but has since been released from medical treatment. He said other students were helping their injured classmate until officers arrived.

“I’m very proud of them because they were able to stay calm for a full hour while we were there scared,” said Avila.

As her students prepare to return to school for the first time since that traumatic day, Avila is recovering, walking up to eight minutes at a time on a treadmill in physical therapy and going to counseling. He hopes to teach again one day.

Outside the reclusive Robb Elementary, a memorial to the slain overflowed at the entrance gate. Teachers from all over Texas stopped by this summer to pay their respects and reflect on what they would do in a similar situation.

“If I survive, I have to make sure they survive first,” said Olga Oglin, a 23-year-old educator from Dallas, her voice breaking.

“Whatever happens to a student at our school, it only happens to one of my children,” Olgin said, adding that as the one who greets parents, students and staff at the door in the morning, he will likely be the first who was shot. .

Ofelia Loyola, an elementary school teacher in San Antonio, visits her husband, junior high school teacher Raul Loyola. He was confused by the delayed response from law enforcementas seen on security and police videos.

“They are all children. No matter how old they are, you protect them,” he said.

Last week, Avila and some of her students met for a year-end party they couldn’t host in May. They played in the pool at the country club and she gave each of them a bracelet with a small cross to remind them that “God was with us that day and they were not alone,” she said.

“We always talked about being nice, respecting each other, taking care of each other – and they were able to do it that day,” Avila said.

“They take care of each other. They took care of me.”

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

By Blanca

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