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Voices from Uvalde: ‘By a simple hug, you could feel the love that she really had for you’

Family members hold a photo of Jackie Cazares during Día de los Muertos in front of the governor's office on Nov. 1, 2022.
Patricia Lim
/
KUT
Family members hold a photo of Jackie Cazares during Día de los Muertos in front of the governor's office on Nov. 1, 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.

Gloria, Javier and Jazmin Cazares told John Gamez about their daughter and sister Jackie:

Gloria Cazares: She was one of a kind. Just the way, how much she loved – you know, by a simple hug, you could feel the love that she really had for you. And that’s what I miss the most about her, is her hugs.

Jazmin Cazares: I would describe her as the embodiment of a little sister.

Gloria Cazares: We talk about her constantly now. All the time. Every single day. I think we each just, to have a little part of her. There’s a necklace that I got that has her fingerprint. So of course I carry that with me all the time.

Jazmin Cazares: I have a picture on the back of my phone.

Gloria Cazares: That day, getting to the school of course was my first priority. I think the first person when I got off was one of the other victims’ dads. And while we’re just standing there, he’s kind of telling me they saw somebody with a gun go into the school. And when he pointed out, of course, which building, it was the fourth grade building where my daughter was in.

I don’t know if there’s a word to describe it. Like, it was so chaotic. You just don’t know. I don’t remember what I was thinking. I don’t know. Of course, I was terrified. But never in a million years do you think it’s your child.

Javier Cazares: I’m a concealed carrier. And … I didn’t have my weapon on me that day. I jump out of the vehicle, left the vehicle on, door open and ran inside the school perimeter itself. I see about five to six dads that were there that were wanting to rush in, but of course they had cops pushing back. Minutes later, you have, you know, broken windows coming out, just hoping to see my daughter come out of one of those classrooms – I’d never been to her classroom because of COVID, you know. Not too many people were allowed to go back there.

Our niece was at the center where everybody was supposed to be evacuated to. So she talked to my wife and said that she’s not there. So the next thing was they heard that they were going to take a busload full of kids out there to the hospital. So she decided to go for us, and we get the call that we didn’t want to hear – “this is your daughter.” She saw our daughter come out of one of the first ambulances.

Gloria Cazares: Of course, she recognized her immediately. She said she was yelling her name, letting her know “I’m here, I’m here.”

Jazmin Cazares: So while all that was happening, I was in lockdown at the high school, so it was real for them way before it was real for me. And I was sitting right next to my teacher. My teacher got a call. It wasn’t on speaker, but I can hear it. And she goes, “Do you have a Jazmin Cazares?” And she goes, “Yes, she’s right here.” She says, “Don’t let her hear, but her sister is getting rushed to the ER.” I think still, then it didn’t I didn’t think anything was as bad as it was.

Gloria Cazares: We waited. It was hours. I don’t even know how long.

Javier Cazares: It was about 2 1/2 hours.

Gloria Cazares: Maybe two, almost three hours. So we see a chaplain and two Rangers walking towards us. So at that time, you already knew something was wrong. And so I do remember asking, “Is she alive?” And the Rangers, the one that just looked at me and said, “no, she’s not.” And that’s how we found out. He just blurted out, “no, she’s not.”

I think the activism and the advocacy has been the way that I am grieving. I don’t want to say that it’s not reality, but I have to pretend sometimes that we’re not going through what we’re going through in order for me to be able to get up every morning. I co-founded Lives Robbed, it’s a nonprofit organization, with a few of the other families. Just continuing to talk about Uvalde, even though there’s some people that are tired of hearing – like, that does not matter. It’s like, we need to do it for our children.

Reflections

Gloria, Javier and Jazmin Cazares shared their story with journalism student John Gamez as part of a project led by Texas State University associate professor of practice Dino Chiecchi.

John Gamez

John Gamez
John Gamez

Age: 22
Major: Electronic Media Major
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Graduation: May 2023

As a journalist, this was the most emotionally taxing yet most accomplishing story I have told. I was initially nervous to be chosen to go on this trip, but I am glad to have taken this leap of confidence and apply myself. Having the opportunity to speak to families about their darkest day in their lives and to be tasked to tell their story was a tremendous feat that our team completed holistically. I can’t imagine being given this assignment on my own, so having a supportive team really pushed us all to look out for each other and produce the best story we can. I refer to this as my senior project and I could not be prouder of the work I have contributed. I thank all of the families for allowing us into their lives for making this possible.

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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