A Robb Elementary School teacher who was shot and lost 11 students in the Uvalde, Texas, massacre slammed police for the slow response to the shooting, said gun laws must change and vowed to “not let these children and my co-workers die in vain.”
Arnulfo Reyes, a third and fourth grade teacher who taught out of room 111, recalled the horror of the shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead to ABC News. A clip of his interview aired Tuesday on “Good Morning America.”
Reyes said May 24 was meant to be a good day with a special awards ceremony for students as the school year neared its end.
He said some children went home with their parents after the ceremony but 11 stayed. Reyes had put on a movie for them when the gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, entered the building and started shooting.
“The kids started asking out loud, ‘Mr. Reyes what is going on?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know what’s going on. But let’s go ahead and get under the table and act like you’re asleep,’” he recalled. “As they were doing that … is about the time when I turned around and saw him standing there.”
Reyes said the gunman entered room 111 through the adjoining door of room 112 and opened fire. Reyes was shot twice, with one bullet hitting him in his arm and lung and another striking him in his back.
“I told my kids to act like they’re asleep so I’m going to act like I’m asleep also. And I prayed and prayed that I wouldn’t hear none of my students talk,” Reyes recalled.
When asked if he thought he was going to die, he admitted, “Yes, ma’am.”
The gunman entered the school at 11:33 a.m. and started shooting at adjoining rooms 111 and 112, firing off more than 100 rounds, according to audio evidence, the Texas Department of Public Safety previously said.
Though officers quickly followed the gunman into the school, they didn’t breach the classroom he was in until 12:50 p.m. — 77 minutes later.
Law enforcement has been under intense scrutiny for that delayed effort to confront the shooter — a move Reyes said he can’t forgive.
“They’re cowards,” Reyes told ABC News. “They sit there and did nothing for our community. They took a long time to go in. … I will never forgive them.”
He recalled how he heard a child in the next classroom, 112, call out in a desperate plea for help.
“Officer, we’re in here! We’re in here,” the student said, according to Reyes.
After hearing the voice, the shooter “got up from behind my desk, he walked over there and shot over there again,” he said.
Reyes eventually heard officers beckon the gunman, saying they wanted to talk.
After the door was finally breached, Border Patrol killed the shooter.
“After that it’s just bullets everywhere,” Reyes said. “I just remember Border Patrols saying, ‘Get up!’ And I couldn’t get up.”
Now, Reyes has a long road to physical recovery.
He said he is left “angry” by the police response to the shooting and how long it took to enter the classrooms, where so many lives were lost. All of the students in his classroom died in the rampage.
“After everything, I get more angry because you have a bulletproof vest. I had nothing. I had nothing. You’re supposed to protect and serve, there is no excuse for their actions,” Reyes said.
The emotional toll of the shooting has left an indelible mark on Uvalde and the Robb Elementary community.
“This family lost one (child), I lost 11 that day,” Reyes said, overcome with emotion.
“I tell my parents, ‘I’m sorry. I tried my best, what I was told to do. Please don’t be angry with me.'”
Reyes said no training can prepare students and staff for an active shooter scenario.
“Nothing gets you ready for this,” he said. “We trained our kids to sit under the table, and that’s what I thought at the time, but we set them up to be like ducks.”
“You can give us all the training you want. But gun laws have to change. It won’t ever change unless you change the laws,” Reyes added.
He said he is devoting himself to make sure change happens in honor of the 21 lives lost.
“The only thing that I know is I will not let these children and my co-workers die in vain. I will not,” he said. “I will go anywhere, to the end of the world, to not let my students die in vain.”