Uvalde family works to rebuild their community as they also try to rebuild themselves

The Martinez family didn’t lose a child in the Robb Elementary school shooting. But the May 2022 tragedy changed their lives too, and they’re fighting to ensure those changes lead to better lives for everyone.

By Kayla Padilla, Texas Public RadioDecember 1, 2023 10:15 am,

From Texas Public Radio:

When a gunman killed 19 children and 2 teachers at Robb Elementary in May 2022, the lives of their families were changed forever. But there’s also the parents whose children survived the shooting and have to live with the aftermath.

Zayon Martinez was only eight years old when a 19-year-old gunman entered his school and killed 21 people.

The trauma of the tragedy continues to impact the now 10-year-old Zayon and his family. His dad, 39-year-old Adam Martinez and his mom, 32-year-old Raquel Martinez are trying to help him heal, but this is new to them too.

“I think sometimes we might be more stressed out than other days, and we don’t realize that’s what it is. Like back there, you’re still pissed off about it,” Adam Martinez said.

He has had a busy year and a half. Earlier this year, he was banned from Uvalde school district meetings for questioning a new police hire. He threatened litigation, and the ban was lifted.

Martinez also started a podcast called “Karma Korner” which is focused on the families of the 21 victims. He’s also pushed for more transparency and fitness training for Uvalde law enforcement.

“Almost everything that we do revolves around May 24. So many things have changed. We’ve lost friends in the beginning because we were some of the ones that stood up for what happened,” he explained.

Better and safer

Martinez has been determined to make Uvalde better and safer, especially for the children. He’s worked on developing solid relationships with local leadership.

Adam and his wife Raquel welcomed a daughter just a few months after the shooting. Raquel said she was used to Adam being around more, but she understood why he needed to be out in the community.

“I just had the baby and he was always gone. He would help out a lot. And I just wasn’t used to that,” she said.

Parents who lose children to gun violence tend to spearhead calls for accountability in their communities. Some of them become activists and political candidates, like Kimberly Mata-Rubio who just ran for mayor of Uvalde. Mata-Rubio lost her daughter Lexi in the Robb shooting.

Zayon with his 1-year-old sister.

For Adam, whose son survived the shooting, the tragedy was personal.

“I’ve heard it one time, like “Hey did you lose somebody?” Like yeah we lost somebody. We lost a lot of innocent children,” he explained.

‘It was just dark’

His son Zayon is a different person now than he was before the shooting. For a year, Zayon refused to sleep in his bedroom. He’s also scared of the dark now.

“I guess that’s that trauma of when he was for 45 minutes in that room where it was just dark,” he added.

Adam and Raquel said that Zayon is sensitive to loud noises, he’s hypervigilant about locking doors at home, and he’s more fearful than he was before the shooting.

Raquel said that she’s learned to cherish every moment with her kids and take a lot of pictures.

“Cause that’s what I’ve heard from families. You just don’t know. And all they have left now is just pictures and memories,” she explained.

The months following the Robb shooting, the Martinez household went from being lively with the sound of bickering siblings, to silence.

“The house was silent with no arguments. Like just holding each other, hugging, spending time with each other,” she added.

‘I just try to forget it’

Zayon just returned to in-person school this fall. This is his first time back since May 2022. Up until now, he had been attending school on Zoom.

Zayon said that he feels a little bit safer, and he’s glad to see his friends again. He tries not to think about the shooting that took place at his former elementary school.

“I don’t really think about it. I just try to forget it. And I’m happy to be in school again,” he said.

Zayon’s favorite subject is math, just like his dad. He loves multiplication and division. He has dreams of becoming a professional soccer and baseball player when he’s older.

The Martinez family is trying their best to move forward, while keeping the memory of those 19 children and 2 teachers alive. Adam, Raquel and Zayon are all in therapy. And there are plenty of moments of normalcy in this family. The playful nature of the Martinez family is slowly returning to the house.

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