Biden mourns with the community during his visit to Uvalde : NPR

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President Biden travels to Uvalde, Texas to mourn with the community. This is his second visit to a community devastated by a shooting in less than two weeks.



MILES PARKS, HOST:

For the second time in as many weeks, the president is visiting a community that has been shattered by a mass shooting. After visiting Buffalo less than two weeks ago, President Biden is in Uvalde today. His visit comes as the Justice Department today confirmed it would conduct a review of law enforcement’s response to the shooting and make those findings public. Stella Chavez with member station KERA reports from there. Welcome Stella.

STELLA CHAVEZ, BYLINE: Hi, Miles.

PARCS: And what do we know about how the president is marking this visit today?

CHAVEZ: Well, as far as I know, he doesn’t do public speaking. He visited the school, Robb Elementary. He and the first lady laid a bouquet of flowers along with other local and state officials. And he spoke with the superintendent and the principal. He also meets with the families of victims and survivors. He meets the first responders. He also attended mass, which was attended by around 600 people. And when he left the church, a crowd of people were chanting, do something. And he answered. He said, we will.

PARKS: And I understand that at Uvalde, at this memorial which, as you mentioned, has grown in size – visitors bring flowers, teddy bears and notes – you met a student there- down who was actually in a classroom across the hall from where the shooting took place. Can you tell us a bit more about that and how the student is holding up?

CHAVEZ: Yes. Caitlyne Gonzales – she’s 10 years old, and this was one of the hardest interviews I’ve had to do. She talked about being inside the classroom. She was scared. She used her cell phone to call both her mother and father. Her mom told me later that what she said to her when she picked up the phone, she said, mom, take me now. Unfortunately, two of her best friends were killed in the classroom across the hall, and Caitlyne points out that all of the students in that class were her friends.

But horrible as it was, she insisted on visiting the memorials. She asked her mother to take her. She wanted to write messages on the crosses bearing the names of her friends who were killed. And I asked Caitlyne what was going through her mind while she was hiding in her classroom, and that’s what she said.

CAITLYNE: I was thinking mostly of my friends and family, but I was thinking more of my mom because she had just been there 30 minutes before at my awards show.

CHAVEZ: And, Miles, I was really struck by his poise throughout the interview. As I said, it was very difficult to even ask him questions. Her mother was very supportive, however, and Caitlyne said she needed to stay strong for her family and friends.

PARKS: I imagine it’s not just the kids at the school and the families there who have been directly affected by paying their respects at the memorial — people from other communities as well. Can you tell us a little about the other people you met and why they felt compelled to travel?

CHAVEZ: Yes. I was struck by the number of visitors from out of town, people from as far away as Canada, Colorado. I met Columbine survivors and met 9-year-old Jazmine Rosario. She stood outside – in a line outside Robb Elementary with her parents and siblings. And just like Caitlyne, she also begged her mom to visit her, to take her to that memorial, the one outside of school. She lives in San Antonio, and she says, you know, it’s important for her to honor him.

But she also talked about how hard it is to see all of this happening, that she’s angry, as are a lot of adults, that – her exact words were, they didn’t do anything, referring to the 19 forces officers of order that were inside the school for – what? – a period of, like, 80 minutes. And she says she’s scared. She is afraid that this could happen to her school. And that’s one thing that I personally keep thinking about is that there are so many kids like her who worry about whether this will happen on their campuses.

PARKS: Stella Chavez with member station KERA, thank you very much for this difficult report.

CHAVEZ: Thank you, Miles. Appreciate it.

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