‘I don’t want it to happen again:’ Uvalde survivor, 11, testifies before Congress

Miah Cerrillo spoke before the House Oversight Committee along with parents of Uvalde and Buffalo victims

Sheila Flynn
Wednesday 08 June 2022 18:41 BST
Schoolgirl describes covering herself in classmate's blood to hide from Uvalde gunman

An 11-year-old Uvalde shooting survivor begged Congress on Wednesday to not let another school massacre happen again – detailing how she hid behind a desk and covered herself in blood as the gunman stalked her classroom.

Miah Cerrillo was in her fourth-grade class at Robb Elementary School on 24 May when 18-year-old Salvador Ramos killed 19 students and two teachers after shooting his grandmother just blocks away.

In videotaped testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, she described not only playing dead but also using a fatally injured teacher’s phone to call 911.

“I told [the dispatcher] that we need help and to send the police,” the fourth-grader told the committee.

She said her teacher had been notified about the shooter and told students to hide just moments before he arrived at the door.

“We were just watching TV, and then she got an email – and then she went to go lock the door, and he was in the hallway,” the 11-year-old said. “And they made eye contact.”

The teacher returned to the room and “we went to go hide behind my teacher’s desk and behind the backpacks, and then he shot the little window” of the door, she said.

“Then he shot some of my classmates and the whiteboard ... he shot my friend that was next to me, and I thought he was going to come back to the room. So I got the blood and put it all over me.”

She said Wednesday that she no longer felt safe and was terrified such a shooting would happen again.

Miah Cerrillo, 11, appeared before Congress on Wednesday in a pre-recorded video; she survived with bullet fragments and trauma after gunman Salvador Ramos killed 19 students and two teachers at her school (YouTube/House Oversight Committee)

Her father, speaking in person in front of the House Oversight Committee, said that she is “not the same little girl that I used to play with, hang around with ... because she was daddy’s little girl,” he said.

“I have five kids, and she’s the middle child, so I don’t know what to do,” he said. “Because I think, I would’ve lost my baby girl.”

He added: “I wish something would change, not only for our kids but every single kid in the world, because schools are not safe anymore.

“Something needs to really change.”

His daughter and the other students were in the school with the shooter for more than an hour before authorities eventually burst in and killed Ramos, a time lapse that has prompted serious questions and outrage.

The 11-year-old told CNN Ramos played sad music during the attack, describing it as “I want people to die music,” according to the producer who interviewed her.

“I heard the grownups later say the police were outside and that they weren’t coming in,” producer Nora Nous said the child told her. “Why didn’t they come in? Why didn’t they save us?”

The fourth-grader is traumatised since the event, her family says, and they’ve started a GoFundMe to help with therapy and medical expenses; it has already raised nearly $470,000, far more than the listed $10,000 goal.

Following the Cerrillos’ testimony, Congress heard from Felix and Kimberly Rubio, whose 10-year-old daughter, Lexi, was killed during the shooting as well.

They also appeared via video, and Ms Rubio made an emotional, tearful plea to the committee as she described her daughter and the tragic events of 24 May.

Felix and Kimberly Rubio, pictured with their daughter, 10-year-old Lexi, who was killed on 24 May while in a fourth grade classroom at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde (Rubio Family)

A reporter for the local Uvalde paper, along with her husband, a Uvalde County Sheriff’s deputy, arrived at the scene on 24 May but was not allowed to enter the school and was kept out of the classroom by other officers after Ramos had been killed.

On the morning of the shooting, the Rubios visited Robb Elementary for a 10.30am awards ceremony that recognised their daughter for being a good citizen and achieving all As; they posed for photos with her and promised a treat later.

“That photo, her last photo, was taken at approximately 10.54 am,” Ms Rubio told Congress Wednesday. “We promised to get her ice cream that evening; we told her we loved her and we would pick her up after school.

“I can still see her walking with us towards the exit; in the reel that keeps scrolling across my memories, she turns her head and smiles back at us,” Ms Rubio said.

“I left my daughter at that school and that decision will haunt me for the rest of my life,” she said.

When news of the shooting broke, the Rubios raced to their daughter’s school, then waited at the civic centre, where families were instructed to reunite with their children; they watched as buses pulled up and their daughter did not get off.

The family checked the hospital and another in San Antonio; she wasn’t there.

“At this point, some part of me must have realised that she was gone,” Ms Rubio said Wednesday. “In the midst of the chaos, I had the urge to return to Robb; we didn’t have our car at this point ... I ran barefoot with my flimsy sandals in my hand. I ran a mile to the school, my husband with me; we stood outside for a while before it became clear we wouldn’t receive an answer from law enforcement on scene.”

Kimberly and Felix Rubio testified via video Wednesday before Congress, just weeks after their daughter, Lexi, was killed in the Uvalde school massacre (YouTube/House Oversight Committee)

Later that night, their worst fears were confirmed; their daughter had been killed.

The Rubios on Wednesday begged for gun reform.

“We don’t want you to think of Lexi as just a number; she was intelligent, compassionate and athletic,” her mother said. “She was quiet, shy, unless he had a point to make; when she knew she was right – she so often was – she stood her ground.

“She was firm, direct, unwavering; so today, we stand for Lexi and, as her voice, we demand action. We seek a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. We understand that, for some reason, to some people, to people with money, to people who fund political campaigns, that guns are more important than children.

“So at this moment, we ask for progress. We seek to raise the age to purchase these weapons from 18 to 21 years of age; we seek red flag laws,” stronger background checks and other safeguards, she said.

Appealing to other families, she said: “I’m a reporter, a student, a mom ... I’ve read to my children since they were in the womb. My husband is a law enforcement officer, an Iraq War veteran; he loves fishing and our babies.

“Somewhere out there, there is a mom listening to our testimony thinking, ‘I can’t even imagine their pain’ – not knowing that our reality will one day be hers unless we act now.”

Just weeks before the shooting in Uvalde, another mother – Zeneta Everhart, of Buffalo, New York – almost lost her adult son when a gunman opened fire at the supermarket where he worked.

Zeneta Everhart, whose son was injured in the May Buffalo supermarket shooting , said she planned to talk to Congress about her son, gun reform and education (AP)

Ms Everhart on Wednesday also testified before Congress about her son, Zaire Goodman, 21, who was injured in the 14 May incident at Tops in Buffalo.

Payton S Gendron, 18, killed ten Black people and injured three other victims before being taken into custody; he has already pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

Erie County Sheriff John Garcia called the shooting a “straight-up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community.”

On Wednesday, Ms Everhart was the first speaker before the House committee.

“To the lawmakers who feel that we do not need stricter gun laws, let me pain a picture for you: My son, Zaire, has a hole in the right side of his neck, two on his back and another on his left leg,” she said, taking a tearful break, “caused by an exploding bullet from an AR-15.

“As I clean his wounds, I can feel pieces of that bullet in his back. Shrapnel will be left inside of his body for the rest of his life.

“Now I want you to picture that exact scenario for one of your children,” she said. “This should not be your story or mine.”

She added: “No citizen needs an AR-15

“These weapons are designed to do the most harm in the least amount of time – and on Saturday, 14 May, it took a domestic terrorist just two minutes to shoot and kill ten people and injure three others.”

To any opponents of gun reform, she issued a challenge: “I invite you to my home to help me clean Zaire’s wounds – so that you may see, up close, the damage that has been caused to my son and to my community.”

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