A pupil inside the building during a shooting at a school in Uvalde tells his story
Daniel saw Ramos approach the window of his classroom door, then shoot through the glass, hitting his teacher in the leg. Another bullet ricocheted off a wall and hit a student in the nose. She was crouched a few feet away from him.
Yet no one shouted. For over an hour as he waited to be rescued, Daniel heard only occasional sobs and muffled instructions from his injured teacher to keep quiet.
“I was scared and nervous because the bullets almost hit me,” said Daniel, who is only identified by his first name as he is a minor. “Some of us, the ones who thought he could see us, they acted like we got shot and stuff. They were playing dead.”
In an interview authorized by his mother, Daniel provided a survival story to The Washington Post, saying he wanted to highlight the heroism of the students in his fourth grade class. Daniel said his class was one of the few the shooter shot on Tuesday, and he believes his teacher’s quick action saved his life. At a press conference this week, officials said most of the deaths and injuries occurred in rooms 111 and 112. Daniel was hiding in room 109.
Daniel’s mother, Briana Ruiz, agreed to let her son be interviewed because she wanted the world to know that Uvalde students face an agonizing journey as they struggle to recover from the tragedy. (Ruiz and his son don’t have the same last name.)
Since the police rescued him by smashing the classroom windows and crawling him through the glass to safety, Daniel has been awakened by nightmares. He refuses to play his beloved video games and generally remains silent. His favorite cousin and 10 other close friends were among those killed earlier this week.
“The kid who came home, luckily he is there. But mentally and emotionally, part of that kid who left their house that morning never came back with them,” said Ruiz, 31. years old, a former teacher’s aide at Robb Elementary School, “They are traumatized and they have to deal with it for the rest of their lives.”
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Daniel’s terrifying day began just minutes after his class wrapped up an awards ceremony marking the end of the school year.
As they walked back to their classroom, Daniel heard gunshots coming from the hallway near a back door that the shooter apparently used to enter the building. Immediately, Daniel said, his teacher rushed to the door and inserted a key, apparently breaking it in such a way that the door jammed, he said.
The teacher also turned off the lights and urged her students to dive under their desks or crawl around the corner.
“We just ran for cover,” Daniel said.
Crouched under a classroom table, Daniel could see the door to his classroom.
At first, Daniel said, he could hear the gunman firing into another classroom at the end of a hallway. Ruiz said there were about eight classrooms in that wing of the school, but several were likely unoccupied because students were at lunch or in gym class.
So, Daniel said, he could hear the shooter making his way down the hall, shooting into another classroom.
About 15 minutes after the shooting began, Daniel said he saw the shooter approach the door to his classroom.
Ramos initially pulled on the door handle but apparently couldn’t open it. Daniel also told his mother that Ramos made mocking hand gestures towards the students in his class.
Then Ramos fired through the glass door.
Daniel described the balls as “hot” as they bounced around the classroom. A fragment of one of these bullets hit his classmate’s nose. Daniel was close enough to hear the “crunch” when he hit the student.
“He then fired, like, two or three bullets, and then the glass shattered, but, like, one bullet hit the wall, bounced off and tried to hit us, but it hit his nose,” he said. said Daniel. “He then fired like two more bullets and then he stopped and then walked back into the classroom next to us.”
During the gunfire, Daniel’s teacher was shot twice but survived.
On Wednesday, Texas law enforcement officials said it took officers about an hour to find and shoot the shooter and rescue the students. Daniel thinks it took about two hours for his class to be evacuated.
While they waited for help, Daniel said he heard his injured classmate gently asking the teacher to “call 911” because she was “bleeding badly.” But for most of the time, Daniel said, the injured student neither cried nor spoke.
Daniel’s teacher, meanwhile, was lying on the floor where she had been shot.
“She had blood on her, but she was whispering, ‘Keep calm. Stay where you are. Don’t move,'” Daniel recalled.
He said some students whispered to the teacher asking if she was okay.
But most of the time, the students just did what the teacher told them to do. They remained silent.
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Ruiz, meanwhile, faced her own nightmare outside of school.
When she was a teacher’s aide, Ruiz also worked in middle school. During the 2014-2015 school year, Ruiz said, Ramos was in his class.
On the morning of filming, Ruiz attended Daniel’s awards ceremony at Robb Elementary School. She had just left by car when she received a phone call from her father warning her of a disturbance at school.
“He said, ‘You have to go to school now, there’s someone shooting, and they say there’s someone running around with guns outside,'” said Ruiz.
As she stood in front of the school, Ruiz and other parents couldn’t understand why officers at the scene weren’t entering the building to confront the shooter. She saw panicked fathers trying to pull down a fence to get into the school and save their children. Ruiz and other mothers began yelling at anyone they could find, demanding answers about what was going on inside the school.
“I kept telling them, ‘It’s his building. This is his building,” Ruiz said as he saw officers begin to point their guns at the section of the school that included Daniel’s classroom. “All I thought was that I should have brought it home with me” after the awards ceremony.
Over the next hour, Ruiz saw students from other sections of the school fleeing or being evacuated to safety by police. But Daniel’s cousin never emerged.
Meanwhile, inside the school, Daniel said, the gunman finally stopped firing his guns. Daniel thinks he hid in a nearby classroom until the police arrived.
“We could hear a cop telling him to get out and stuff,” Daniel said. “We heard the cop say, ‘Put down your handgun, and put down the rest of your guns, and get out of the classroom.’ ”
“We could hear the shooter saying something in Spanish,” Daniel added. “And then we heard like two shots, and the cop called for reinforcements to get us to safety.”
After the shooter was shot by police, Daniel said the officers were also unable to open the door his teacher had blocked with the key. Officers then smashed the room’s windows so Daniel and his classmates could crawl outside, leaving shards of glass in the palms of their hands.
Daniel saw the police break the windows of the next classroom.
But Daniel said only four students crawled, his first sign that his cousin, Ellie Garcia, 9, did not survive. Ruiz said that Daniel often stood up for Ellie when she was bullied at school, and now he feels guilty that he survived, but she didn’t.
By telling his story to a reporter, Ruiz hopes it will put Daniel at ease talking about his feelings with a psychologist. At a news conference on Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott promised that anyone in Uvalde will be able to receive free mental health services.
Since Tuesday, Ruiz said, Daniel has been sleeping in bed and waking up with nightmares.
On Wednesday evening, Ruiz and Daniel sat down and looked at the photos of all the students who died that day. Daniel showed photographs of one of his best friends and nine other friends who were among the victims.
Even though Daniel lives in a cramped trailer with his sister and brother, Ruiz said he has yet to set foot in the room that contains his gaming gear. His two favorite video games were “Fortnite” and ” War Game”.
When asked why he doesn’t play his video games anymore, Daniel lowers his head and says, “I don’t like gunshots and stuff.”
Yet despite his trauma, Ruiz is confident Daniel will grow up knowing he’s a hero too.
“He feels that his friends and classmates, at that time, were very brave even though they were so scared,” Ruiz said. “He kept saying, ‘We did well, mum. We did well. We remained silent. ”