Robb Elementary survivor Arnulfo Reyes remembers 77 minutes with the shooter

Reyes was in the connected classrooms where 19 students and two of his fellow teachers were killed. He was shot and is still getting surgeries in his recovery.

By Riley Patrick & Laura RiceMay 24, 2024 4:33 pm, , , ,

It’s been two years since a gunman entered Robb Elementary in Uvalde, killing 19 students and two teachers.

– Nevaeh BravoA photo of white crosses with photos and flowers in front of Robb Elementary School.

– Jackie Cazares

– Makenna Elrod

– Jose Flores, Jr.

– Ellie Garcia

– Uziyah Garcia

– Amerie Jo Garza

– Xavier Lopez

– Jayce Luevanos

– Jailah Silguero

– Tess Mata

– Maranda Mathis

– Alithia Ramirez

– Annabell Rodriguez

– Maite Rodriguez

– Lexi Rubio

– Layla Salazar

– Eliahna Torres

– Rojelio Torres

– Irma Garcia

– Eva Mireles

Another teacher, Arnuflo Reyes, survived. This is his account of the day:

“It was awards day that day. So, you know, get there a bit extra early, try to get things organized and ready… the kids knew that we were just going to, you know, chill and they were going to watch movies.”

» MORE: Former Uvalde teacher Arnulfo Reyes says he lost some of his identity when he decided not to return to the classroom

“You could hear some loud bangs, but they were far away. So I didn’t think nothing of it. You know, it’s far away, it’s out there. I couldn’t place what it was. I mean, it’s not every day that you hear a gun, close to school and, you know, you’re not in that environment.”

“So, I heard several – but then, they just got so loud and they got closer … I had a student that was asking me, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ And I’m, like, confused. And I’m like, ‘I don’t know what’s going on. But you know what? Let’s go ahead and start heading into our place where we practice.’ So I told them, ‘Hurry up and let’s get under the table’… Because when I figured that it was a gun is because pieces of the wall were falling off.”

“It all happened so fast. You know, ‘Get under the table, close your eyes.’ And I got into my position. And as I was getting into my position, that’s when I saw a shadow by the door. And he came and he shot me, he shot me on my arm and I fell to the floor … and I believe I fell on my arm. So that probably did help me survive. And then he came around my table, shot the kids under the table.”

“And then he started to mess with me, to splash blood on my face. He poured water on my back that I had, my drinking water. And then he got my cell phone and was dropping it on my back. I think he wanted to make sure that I was dead. And I don’t think he knew that I fell my arm. So I don’t think he knew where my blood source was coming from. So I think that that helped me. It was painful as ever. I didn’t hear nothing from my kids anymore, so I kind of knew that something was wrong with them.”

“And at that time, you know, the police officers came by. Well, I had thought that they had just come by. But now after seeing the video, they were there like the whole entire time. But I had the feeling that they had came by, they were negotiating, or telling him, you know, ‘Come out, we want to talk to you’ and stuff like that. And then I didn’t hear anything anymore. So I thought that they had left to another room or other part of the school and then – they were quiet for a while.

“And then, I heard them again and I said, ‘Good, you know, they’re going to come in, they’re going to save us, they’re going to come in this time – they found us.’ And, again, they negotiated with him and all that stuff, and then quiet again. And so then I thought like, ‘We’re going to die,’ you know. Just bleed out to death, you know?”

“Then, the student from the other classroom yelled to the officers, you know, “Officers, come in here. We’re in here.’ And then he went over there and he shot her and shot a little bit more. Came back to my classroom, shot again under the table. And that’s when he shot me in my back. So I thought to myself, ‘I’m not going to make it after all.’”

“They could have gone in before and I could, you know, not have this gunshot in my back. So if they would have gone in earlier, I wouldn’t have this; Amerie Jo would be alive today because she spoke out, wanting to get help for her friends. And so, I blame them for not going in.”

“And then I heard the clanging of the chairs, you know, of the desks and the chairs – the metal. And then I knew that they were coming in, so I just closed my eyes tight and said, you know, ‘Hopefully I don’t get a stray bullet or something else, and I make it.’ So yeah, that happened and just a lot of a lot of shooting going on. And then it got silent. And then I heard one of the  Border Patrol guys say, you know, ‘Get up – if you can get up, get up. If you can talk, talk.’ And I just talked and I said, ‘I can’t get up.’ And so he just turned me around and he got me from the pant leg and just started dragging me out.”

“Sometimes it feels lonely. It’s hard to explain, because, like, I wish that they would have survived. It’s been difficult. Difficult because I don’t think any of them deserved anything like that. … Nobody deserves anything like that. It’s been a difficult time.”

A close-up photo of dozens of rosaries hanging from a wooden cross at a makeshift memorial for the Robb Elementary shooting victims.

A team of students at Texas State University are working with Professor Eraldo “Dino” Chiecchi to continue to tell the stories of Uvalde. Here are their reflections on the project.

A photo of Riley PatrickRiley Patrick
Age: 20
Major: Journalism
Hometown: Cypress, Texas
Graduation: August 2024

Speaking to the sole survivor from Classroom 111 at Robb Elementary will stick with me for the rest of my life. In the weeks leading up to the interview, I did endless amounts of research to prepare myself, but nothing could’ve prepared me for hearing the story of such a tragedy in person. The look in Arnulfo Reyes’s eyes and the pauses he took before speaking shared so much in themselves to how heartbroken he felt over losing 11 of his students. I’ve never taken so long to write a story before or second guessed my words so much because I was determined for the story to share his gracefully, but powerfully. I am so grateful to Reyes for taking the time to speak with us and share intimate details of the worst day of his life. I remember after we wrapped up the interview, he told us that he couldn’t decline the offer because it was students that would be writing these stories. His face lit up any time he talked about his time teaching and interacting with students. I owe so much thanks to the other student journalists I had next to me that day, as well as Professor Chiecchi, who spent ample amount of time preparing us for this day and instilling confidence in us.

A photo of Eraldo Chiecchi.Eraldo “Dino” Chiecchi, MFA
Texas State University
Multimedia journalism professor
Uvalde reporting project coordinator
Hometown: El Paso, Texas

This is the second time our journalism students visited Uvalde, Texas, to report on this senseless tragedy – the worst days of the lives of so many people. Our students reported these difficult stories on the mass killing of 19 students and two teachers with grace, empathy and with the respect the victims deserved. Parents of the victims commented to me immediately after the interviews and elsewhere just how well prepared the students were to interview them – even more than some national media. As a result, family members were candid telling the stories. Students and I talked a great deal about vicarious trauma – a real thing among journalists and others who deal with tragedy. Students talked at length, especially on the drive back home. We visited Uvalde on two different days and conducted one interview in Austin. At the end of the project, students produced quality journalism – stories, video and audio pieces, and exceptional photography.

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