When Quiroz got to the civic center, her son Ruben was waiting for her. Parents all around them were frantic. “Everybody was on the sidewalk, looking at other kids, hoping it was their kid,” she said. On a whiteboard, volunteers wrote down the names of the teachers whose classes had been rescued. A group of children who had leaped from their classroom window and fled to a nearby funeral home arrived in Border Patrol vans. More buses pulled up, and children lunged into the arms of their parents. As the hours wore on, Quiroz and her sister noticed that two teachers were nowhere to be seen: Ms. Garcia and Ms. Mireles.
Carolina’s son arrived on the last bus, but their cousin’s son was still missing: ten-year-old Jayce Carmelo Luevanos. “We stayed with my cousin until midnight, looking for her son,” Quiroz recalled. The two sisters drove back and forth between the school and the civic center while their cousin waited at the hospital. They remained hopeful. It was possible, they thought, that he had been taken to a hospital in San Antonio on a helicopter. “This whole time, we didn’t know that they still had the bodies of the kids that didn’t make it out at all,” Quiroz said. “As soon as they asked for her DNA test, she knew.”
The police disclosures haunted Quiroz and her family. Could Jayce have been saved if officers had stormed the classroom sooner? Given that the police department was a mile and a half from the school, why did it take officers twelve minutes to arrive? In the restaurant, Quiroz seethed with Carolina and their cousin’s wife, Amber, who co-owns the restaurant. “They said they were waiting on keys to open the doors,” Carolina said. “He”—the shooter—“went in right through the doors, so how were they waiting on keys?” Quiroz added, “The parents were breaking windows. How could the cops not have broken any windows? The police is a fucking joke.”
“They’re so full of shit,” Amber replied.
“He’s only one guy with an AR-15,” Quiroz said. “If one of you all gets shot in the process of going in, oh, well, that’s your oath. You took the oath to serve and protect. But you’re not doing anything. You’re standing there, letting these kids get killed.”
After they finished their shifts at the restaurant, Quiroz and Carolina brought their children to a family gathering at their mother’s home, a one-story house with a lush garden and a collection of wind chimes. Sitting on the porch, four boys between the ages of seven and ten, recalled how they had survived the massacre. Orlando, Carolina’s ten-year-old son, had stayed in his classroom, while Ruben, Quiroz’s nine-year-old, was in the cafeteria.
Ruben noted that teachers took what steps they could. “They turned off all the lights and closed the blinds,” he said. After a few minutes, they rushed his class into the school’s auditorium. An hour later, he was escorted out of the school by his teacher and then brought to the house of an elderly neighbor. “She gave us water,” Ruben recalled, with a half smile. Soon afterward, he was reunited with his mother at the civic center.
Ryan, Ruben’s younger brother, who is a first grader at a nearby school, said that he was taken from his classroom to an auditorium. “We watched three movies,” he said, proudly. “ ‘Nemo,’ ‘Toy Story 1,’ and ‘Toy Story 2,’ but we didn’t finish it.”
Their cousin Orlando said that he wished the police had acted sooner. “They could have shot him before he killed anybody,” he said. And then he praised his teachers. “All the teachers had scissors, so if he came in they could have stabbed him.”
“Stab him to death!” Ryan said.
The boys spoke about the various types of firearms they had seen. “There was a guy helping the police with a rifle,” Orlando said. “A gun like mine.”
His aunt corrected him. “Oh, right, a gun like yours?” Quiroz said.
“Mine is a pellet gun,” Orlando said, “but I don’t want it anymore.”