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Voices from Uvalde: 'I just don’t want anybody to forget about her'

 Kimberly Mata-Rubio, right, gives a speech about her experiences as a parent of a child who was killed during the Robb Elementary School shooting. The family is demanding an increase in the age limit to purchase assault-style weapons.
Patricia Lim
/
KUT
Kimberly Mata-Rubio talks about her experiences as a parent of a child who was killed during the Robb Elementary School shooting. The family is demanding an increase in the age limit to buy assault-style weapons.

It’s been almost a year since the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde killed 19 young students and two teachers. The families of those lost recently shared their experiences with journalism students at Texas State University.

Kimberly Mata-Rubio told Rasika Gasti about her daughter Lexi:


So that morning we woke up and I took the kids to school and then I went home to get ready because we had awards ceremonies for both of the kids. Julian was first at 8:30 and then Lexi was at 10:30. She got the “All A Honor Roll” and the “Good Citizen Award.”

I started hearing traffic on the scanner. I know it was something about a shooting on a residential street, but I don’t know at what point I realized the school was involved or that it was in close proximity or that I needed to get there.

My sister picked me up and took me to my maternal grandfather’s house because he lives just right there. And then I walked up to the funeral home, which is right across [from] Robb. That’s as close as you could get. That’s where all parents were. They told us to go to the Civic Center. That’s where we would be reunited with the kids. They were being bused over if they hadn’t already been bused over.

So I went to the Civic Center. We waited. I think it was like four buses. She just never came out of any of the buses.

I don’t remember at what time they came and grabbed us, but they came around us and told us they were going to move us somewhere quieter. And I knew. I knew what was coming. They told us that Lexi was one of the victims. After that, it’s just kind of a blur.

My mom told me – I really need to announce that Lexi is one of the victims because she’s being left out of the names. So I just wrote something up and posted it on Facebook. It seemed right to have her award picture and just explained that she had received these awards and that we didn’t know it was goodbye.

I know there’s a lot of renewed interest because the one-year mark is coming up, and it just feels surreal.

I don’t think I’ve really accepted it yet. So it’s hard to start a grieving process. I’ve kind of just thrown myself into activism, keep myself busy. I think it just varies from day to day. I don’t think that grief is stages as in one year, two year, three year. I think you can always regress. It’s just, it’s painful, and it’s hard to describe.

We go to D.C., I think we’ve been up eight times. We’re talking to lawmakers. We’re with other nonprofits, organizations trying to share her story. I go up to Austin. I do the same thing. That’s why I do so much media and social media presence. I just don’t want anybody to forget about her. And if I’m reaching at least one person, then it’s worth it.

Something should have been done after Columbine. And because it wasn’t, I’m here. And surely after our children, I thought, this is what’s going to – might be the change. And it wasn’t. And now there’s just more children and more parents have had to bury their children. It’s not right.

Reflections

Kimberly Mata-Rubio shared her story with journalism student Rasika Gasti as part of a project led by Texas State University associate professor of practice Dino Chiecchi.

Rasika Gasti

 Rasika Gasti
Rasika Gasti

Age: 21
Major: Digital Media Innovation
Hometown: Mumbai, India
Graduation: Summer 2023

When I signed up to participate in this project, I knew I was opening myself up for a different kind of experience because I have never covered anything as traumatic as the Uvalde school shooting in my time as the reporter for on-campus student publications. However, the lessons I got out of working on this project were so much more valuable that I had expected. I cannot say if any particular stage in the project was more challenging than the other because each stage presented its own unique challenges. For instance, on the day we went to Uvalde as a team to meet the families of the victims, it was challenging for me as a sensitive person to stay calm and ask all my questions during the interview while listening to the heartbroken, sobbing parents about how they lost their young children. We also wanted to make sure that we are getting the most out of the interviews while being considerate about their feelings and emotions. But I strongly believe that it was easier to deal with all these challenges because of the amazing team and mentor we had. The biggest factors that kept our team motivated throughout this project was our genuineness to know how the families were doing almost a year after the tragic event and intentions to use our storytelling abilities to help these parents in their activism. I am truly grateful that all the families we interviewed for this project trusted us and gave us the opportunity to talk to them and share their stories.

Eraldo “Dino” Chiecchi, MFA

Dino Chiecchi
Dino Chiecchi

Texas State University
Multimedia journalism professor
Uvalde reporting project coordinator
Hometown: El Paso, Texas

I couldn’t be happier with the work of my students. They reported this difficult story with grace, empathy and gave their stories the respect they deserved. Parents of victims commented to me immediately after the interviews and elsewhere just how well prepared the students were to interview them – even more than some national media. As a result, family members were candid telling the story about the worst day of their lives. Every student was moved by the experience, listening to family members discuss the loved ones they lost. Students and I talked a great deal about vicarious trauma – a real thing among journalists and others who deal with tragedy. Students talked at length, especially on the drive back home, about their experience. But at the end of the project, students produced quality journalism: stories, video and audio pieces, and exceptional photography.

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