Reflections on Uvalde by Angela Valenzuela, Ph.D.
Note: This article was originally published on June 3, 2022. Because of its relevance it is reprinted now, on the one-year anniversary of the Uvalde mass killings.
We just got back from Uvalde, my friends. My husband, Emilio and I, took a quick, weekend trip to pay our respects. What happened in Uvalde felt painful, deeply personal, and much too close to home.
My emotions run the gamut between petrifying sadness at the tragic loss of so many children and their teachers, and gut-churning outrage at our republican leadership that do not want to see the truth before their very eyes that—but for their greed, love of money, power, and guns—expressed in harmful policies and priorities—this tragedy could have been avoided.
This, atop the fact that according to this May 25, 2022 NPR piece on school violence titled, “10 years since the horrific tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary,” gun laws haven’t changed despite what clearly is a current, well-documented epidemic of gun violence in our country. To learn how to take action, there ARE resources, including the following:
Social Media Action Kit out of Sandy Hook.
Survivors Empowered is another nonprofit organization that also has a kit that features Uvalde, TX and Buffalo, NY, on its website.
The Gun Violence Archive is yet another authoritative source on gun violence in America.
A second May 25, 2022 NPR piece titled, “27 school shootings with injuries or deaths have taken place so far this year.” This figure doesn’t count the fact that, according to Education Week, there have been 119 school shootings since 2018.
There is so much gun violence in America that President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris had to split up to cover the horrific, recent shooting in Buffalo, New York—that took the lives of 10 people in the Black community—so that he and Jill could make it to Uvalde.
This NPR piece covers both incidents, drawing similarities: 2 mass shootings — 1,700 miles apart but bound by startling similarities: In the 10 years since Sandy Hook, gun laws in the U.S. haven’t changed much.
Emilio and I indeed found it comforting to be sitting close to them both in yesterday’s Sunday mass at Uvalde’s Sacred Heart Cathedral where I got the chance to thank them for coming. “Your welcome,” he responded quietly.
I appreciated that Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller officiated in English, intermixed with Spanish, with the Bidens in attendance, receiving, along with the rest, his words of solace and reassurance. This apparent decision to not have Biden speak assured that the service would be centered on a community’s healing rather than politics. Although he did speak to the families afterwards in a private session, I imagine that as a Catholic himself, he likely preferred to be consoled rather than to console as he often does.
A wonderful gesture by the archbishop was his calling all of the children attending mass to the front of the church where he expressed words of support and comfort to them all in a soft-spoken, loving voice. At least one small child near us sobbed throughout inconsolably with his mother having to pull him out of the service earlier than the rest. It’s all so heart breaking.
For all of us who have children, grandchildren, or who work closely with children, all of this must surely have special resonance. In our case, we have a grandson who is the same age as many of these children at Robb Elementary. He knows about what happened and said to us on Saturday that “It’s sad,” adding that “this shouldn’t happen to children.” We work closely with this age group and their families at our Saturday school, Academia Cuauhtli. We are planning a healing ceremony for the children and families that we work with that is tentatively for next Sunday morning on June 5, 2022.
Our intentions are to listen to what our children and youth have to say about all of this since we know it’s affecting them, perhaps making them fearful of attending school. Such thoughts are sure to lurk in many teachers’ minds, as well, such that we all need to do what we can to embrace them while simultaneously advocating for meaningful gun reform legislation at this crucial point in our history as a country.
To be sure, the trauma that Uvalde is experiencing right now is reverberating across the country with children and teachers, respectively, fearing schools as potentially dangerous places to attend and work.
To be of help, here is an extensive list of verified fundraisers where you can donate to help cover not only funeral, but also counseling, costs. Here is an excellent May 25th NPR piece on other ways to help, including support for volunteer legal services and blood donations.
This is for the long haul, my friends.
These survivors will need every penny to become not so much “whole,” since that’s impossible for survivors, but at least “more whole” with effective counseling and therapy.
In the meantime, let’s all hug our children and their teachers even as we contemplate how a world without guns is actually a much safer world than one with them. Collectively, let’s commit to changing not just gun laws, but also our hideous culture of gun violence.
Copyright 2022 by Dr. Angela Valenzuela