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Voices from Uvalde: ‘To this day, I kind of always feel like I’m looking for him’

Brett Cross, the uncle and guardian of Uziyah Garcia, celebrated the news that the entire Uvalde CISD police department was suspended on Oct. 7, 2022.
David Martin Davies
/
Texas Public Radio
Brett Cross, the uncle and guardian of Uziyah Garcia, celebrated the news that the entire Uvalde CISD police department was suspended on Oct. 7, 2022.

It’s been almost one 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.

Nikki and Brett Cross told Elissa Jorgensen about their nephew Uziyah Garcia, who they were raising as their son:

Nikki Cross: He was just like the funnest little boy – very loving and kind. He’d experienced some bullying in his old school. So when they came here to live with me, he was just so excited and happy to be here. And he made so many friends on his first day; he said, you know, everybody just seemed to be more accepting of him. And I really got to watch him go from kind of a withdrawn, quiet boy to the just, I mean, hyper funny – he loved to joke. He loves his siblings. Spider-Man is his favorite superhero. I think he related to Spider-Man in a way where Spider-Man was a teenage hero, you know, a young hero, and Uzi loved to help people. He was a huge helper; anytime we were doing anything, he was right there helping.

Brett Cross: He always wanted to put a smile on your face. He didn’t like it when you were sad or upset or anything like that. So he’d go out of his way to make you smile, to laugh, to make you forget that pain. And I mean, it’s hard because he’s not here to take away these frowns.

Nikki Cross: He was loud – for such a small boy, so loud. And sometimes I would get mad, you know, like, ‘Uzi, shh, keep it down. There’s so many of us in this house, and you don’t got to be so loud.’

Brett Cross: Now that silence is deafening. There’s days that you function just a little bit easier. But overall, it’s not good days anymore.

Nikki Cross: You have OK days; you have days that maybe aren’t so bad, but a huge part of my life is missing. So I don’t think I’m ever going to be OK again.

To this day, I kind of always feel like I’m looking for him. I just think that’s from so much time, so many hours that day we were looking in the neighborhood. You know, there was rumors kids ran to the neighborhood. There was rumors kids were at the funeral home, at the hospitals. I called every hospital that you can imagine in this entire area to see if they had an unidentified little boy, you know, from Uvalde, anything – never got any answers. And I still didn’t get to see him for about a week after. So it’s just been a lot of time feeling like I was looking for him. And it hasn’t gone away yet.

I wish I could say enough has been enough and this country is gonna open their eyes – but I’ve been to D.C.; I’ve been to Austin. I’ve met with many, many lawmakers. And one thing that they never fail to tell me is they don’t think the votes are there. So I want to believe that we can do it. And I know we’re fighting really hard. But I don’t have faith in our government. This is no longer just a public school issue anymore. It’s everywhere: Walmart, movie theaters. I mean, it’s time for a change. And I just, I want them to know that we’re going to keep standing up, and we’re going to keep speaking out and we’re never going to stop. Never.

Brett Cross: And the blood is on all of these legislators’ hands that choose not to do anything. And I know that they can sleep well at night and everything, but I don’t know how.

Nikki Cross: It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when it will affect your community. So it is up to all of us – as a whole, as a country, the world; I don’t care where you’re from – to start speaking up about this issue. It’s not Democratic. It’s not Republican. It’s just American. And our children are dying.

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

Reflections

Nikki and Brett Cross shared their story with journalism student Elissa Jorgensen as part of a project led by Texas State University associate professor of practice Dino Chiecchi.

Elissa Jorgensen

Elissa Jorgensen
Elissa Jorgensen

Age: 20
Major: English, Journalism minor
Hometown: Cypress, Texas
Graduation: Spring 2023

The Uvalde project and story-writing process was nothing less than an honor. It was a privilege to speak with the Uvalde families. They want justice for the losses they’ve suffered; many Americans do as well. I’m extremely proud of my reporting team, and my professor Dino Chiecchi, for pouring their all into the articles, video, audio and photos. I’m also proud of myself for taking this opportunity and making it into an impactful and effective experience. I graduate in May, and I feel so much more prepared and well-rounded for my future in graduate school because of the work I’ve done on this project. I have no regrets in taking it.

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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