Arnulfo “Arnie” Reyes, a teacher at Robb Elementary School, has a green apple-colored Uvalde home where family and friends are frequently seen coming and going.
On a steamy Texas night, the fourth-grade teacher, who has had roughly 10 surgeries, is dozing off in his recliner next to his air conditioner.
“You must enter, brother? At the door of the modest house, he tells his sibling, “You can come in.”
For this evening’s dinner, a wave of guests who are part of a neighborhood “food train” brought lasagna to Reyes and his family. They also sent gifts, including a wreath in his school colors of maroon and silver.
His favorite bean and cheese tacos were made for his first meal at home by his mother, Rosemary Reyes.
Reyes missed a lot of people and things when he was at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, including her. One month after the incident, he left the hospital and came back.
The 45-year-old remarked, “I’m home to recuperate.”
Reyes was welcomed home with a procession of cars in front of his residence at the end of June. Volunteers delivered food, cut his grass, and assisted him in getting to appointments.
“This community has really… come together and done so much together,” he remarked.
It’s a long way from May 24, when shots were fired into Room 112 next door and a mysterious figure suddenly materialized in his classroom.
Reyes had just told his students in Room 111 to conceal themselves.
Reyes remembers telling his kids to “just go under the desk and act like you’re asleep.” I wished they would shut their eyes and not be able to see anything.
The shooter then shot Reyes in the left arm as he was about to move from his kidney-shaped table closer to his students.
He didn’t know if he would survive.
You know, please don’t let my children die in vain, I very much had already devoted my life to God, Reyes added. “If it’s my time, then it’s my time.”
Reyes, who was formerly a student at Robb Elementary, says the mistakes made that day still haunt him. “Don’t wait for a tragedy.”
He claims that his classroom’s doorknob was damaged and wouldn’t lock for at least two years; he repeatedly requested that it be fixed but to no effect.
And he continues to be perplexed by the slow law police reaction.
“There’s no excuse for 77 minutes,” Reyes asserts.
He makes an effort to keep his criticisms of incident commander Pete Arredondo, chief of police for the Uvalde school district, to a minimum. Reyes claims that Arredondo is his maternal second cousin; they have not talked since the shooting.
However, he can’t figure out why Arredondo says he was looking for keys when Reyes’ door opened without them.
“I wished he had said, ‘I’m going in there because that’s my family,’” she added. Reyes continued, his voice faltering, “But he didn’t.
Arredondo left his position as a newly sworn-in Uvalde City Council member earlier this month. Due to his police duties, he is still on administrative leave.
Reyes questions why gifts to the school only came after a catastrophe. He recalls the numerous school fundraisers when students sold candy and stuff from catalogs in exchange for a share of the proceeds.
Why do these kinds of circumstances need to occur for individuals to give money? Asks Reyes.
This year, Reyes had a class of 18, but several of them left early following an awards ceremony on the day of the shooting. The remaining 11 pupils were all gathered to watch a movie.
Reyes claims that although one of the dead kids might have known how to cure cancer or had the potential to become president, we will never know.
The school also had a huge list of issues that needed to be fixed, including leaks, insufficient insulation in some parts, and other doors that didn’t lock, such as the entrance to the teacher’s lounge.
“Don’t wait for a tragedy to say, ‘OK, well, here’s $10 million, now you can have the best school,’” Reyes mentions the anticipated expense of rebuilding Robb Elementary. “Don’t hold off till a tragedy occurs. Do it now.
After being shot, Reyes collapsed to the ground on his stomach and was found lying on the right side of his face, practically beneath his table.
The 11 kids cowering behind Reyes under a table were all shot by the assailant after that. No one lived.
‘Parents lost one child. One child was lost by families. But that day, I lost 11,” Reyes recalled.
He pretended to be dead for over an hour while he prayed and whimpered in anguish.
The shooter sat at Reyes’ instructor’s table during the incident, approximately a foot away, and at one point responded to distant police calls with sounds resembling a cough.
Reyes remarked, “I could hear him so close, with that nervous cough he had.” I could hear and feel him breathing. after which I heard something metallic being placed on top of the desk.
The sound of some objects, such as rifle magazines or bullets, was heavy and hollow. Salvador Ramos, an 18-year-old shooter, allegedly planned to reload if anyone entered the room, according to Reyes.
Reyes claims that the shooter also got water on his back and blood on the side of his face that was exposed. Ramos placed Reyes’ phone on his back as it started to ring.
Reyes remarked, “I think he was trying to make me flinch.”
Ramos fired at Reyes once more, hitting his back this time, about halfway through. Reyes’ breathing grew shallow as his lungs began to fill with fluid.
Reyes added, “He wanted to make sure everyone was dead.”
Reyes prepared for the worst when he heard cops entering Room 112 next door.
After the bullets, I’ll know that this is it, Reyes murmured as he closed his eyes. “If a bullet gets loose and hits me, so be it.”
Ramos was then accosted, and there was a brief pause before a burst of gunfire.
Two teachers and 19 kids died that day in total.
A Border Patrol agent was tugging Reyes by the cuff of his pants shortly after the shooter was killed, ripping off pieces of fabric, and shouting to other officers that Reyes was heavy.
Even when things are at their worst, Reyes’ sense of humor shines through.
“I simply thought, ‘Dude, I’m still alive. Don’t be so rude, Reyes commanded.
The agent’s name is still unknown to him.
Reyes laughs, “I would tell him I don’t weigh that much and I’ve dropped weight since then.
Reyes recalls being transported from the school to an ambulance without a stretcher by others. With a chest tube, his labored breathing became better.
Then, a flight took him to San Antonio.
Reyes claims he has many heroes from that day to thank and meet.
Reyes is still struggling to come to terms with the fact that he was unable to save his pupils.
The mother of one of the murdered students jumped out of her car to embrace Reyes at the parade held in his honor outside his home.
They sobbed while holding each other for a long period.
She had to personally come and assure me that I wasn’t to blame. I had felt bad, adds Reyes. “I followed the proper course of action. However, I was still filled with remorse and wondered, “What else could I have done?
Reyes concurs with the proposal to demolish the current school structure. He suggests that it might be replaced with a memorial and that a future school might bear the victims’ names.
He has also considered the shooter and has pondered whether academic demands played a role in his problems. He is interested in making adjustments to ease Texas kids’ academic pressures.
He hasn’t yet forgiven everyone, though.
Reyes added, “I’m trying to arrive at those conclusions so that I can genuinely say I forgive him. When my children receive justice, I might arrive at that conclusion or I might think, “OK, we got something out of this.”
Additionally, he recalls telling his students in jest that a movie would be made on their preparations for state exams. He is now considering creating a fresh motivating film for his students.
Reyes, who has been a teacher in Uvalde for almost seven years, is unsure of his future in the profession.
His left arm, which is still severely bandaged and covered with a drainage tube, is still immobile. His back injury is covered in more bandages, and he now has one on his right leg for a skin graft operation.
He also carries a little device that speeds up the healing of his wounds. Even a quick trip to the bathroom becomes difficult because of it.
Reyes added, “I’m not used to depending on anyone for anything.
As a result, the concept of how his future adventure will operate is still being developed.
“This is me. Reyes says, “And a lot of it that’s propelling me forward in all of this is the love that I’m getting from my community, the love that I get from my family, and the concept that I want to make things happen for my pupils, that they wouldn’t die in vain.
The nightmare of losing all 11 of the youngsters in his class that day, students who felt like his own children, is, according to him, beginning to be dealt with support.