‘One Year In: Uvalde’ — The Impact

This story is part of KSAT’s interactive project “One Year In: Uvalde,” which honors victims and survivors of the Robb Elementary School shooting on May 24, 2022.

When the tragedy became part of the national conversation, the public turned to their elected leaders for change. Some people looked within to offer another path to healing — one through art.

Artists painted murals through the center of Uvalde as a positive outlet for grief, and mariachis from across South Texas came together to show their support through song.

For mariachi performer Juan Bautista Ortiz, May 24, 2022, is etched in his soul.

Ortiz and San Antonio artist Cruz Ortiz helped coordinate mariachis to perform at Uvalde’s town square within days of the shooting. They created a song to dedicate to the community, a song called “El Corrido de Los Angeles de Uvalde.”

Cruz Ortiz said he counted about 80 performers that day, all playing for a community wounded by a nightmare.

“It’s part of the Mexican, the Hispanic culture because when a tragedy does happen, the first thing we do is we unite. That’s the first thing that we do,” Juan Ortiz said.

Art contributes to healing. The scars will remain, but the music is a fellowship, he added.

The families whose lives were torn apart are writing their own stories with Lives Robbed. They’re taking thoughts and prayers and turning them into action at the Texas Capitol.

Abel Lopez, right, father of Xavier Lopez who was killed in the shootings in Uvalde, Texas, holds a banner honoring the victims after a Texas House committee voted to take up a bill to limit the age for purchasing AR-15 style weapons in the full House in Austin, Texas, Monday, May 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File) (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

They know they are met with a wall of opposition. The state’s Republican-controlled Legislature has pushed back on virtually all firearm restrictions.

Families faced lawmakers directly on April 18, when the Texas House Select Committee on Community Safety held its first public hearing on HB 2744, the so-called “raise the age” bill.

They, however, had to wait more than 13 hours to do so.

“I arrived here today at 8 a.m. and as we waited more than 13 hours, I’m reminded of May 24, 2022, when we waited hours to be told our daughter would never come home,” Rubio testified. “I expressed confusion then, and I’m perplexed now. Did you think we would go home?

Family members of the victims of the Uvalde shootings react after a Texas House committee voted to take up a bill to limit the age for purchasing AR-15 style weapons in the full House in Austin, Texas, Monday, May 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

They had an unexpected-but-ultimately-hollow victory when the bill was voted out of the committee 8-5. Their elation fell the following day when it was left off the Texas House agenda ahead of an important deadline.

A state lawmaker who represents Uvalde, Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who has been vocal about accountability and policy, has filed more than 20 bills related to gun reform, school safety and mass shooting victims. None of them had a committee meeting, the first legislative hurdle.

“It’s pretty sad where we are right now because we went an entire session and the Republicans and the Legislature that control the House and the Senate didn’t do much, not just to help these families but really to protect all Texans,” he told KSAT in a Q&A on May 11.

“In the House, it seemed like they paid lip service… but there was never a real intent to have it move further.”

The legislative session ends on May 29. The only way new rules or laws can be made in Texas outside a regular legislative session is through a special legislative session.

The only person with the authority to call a special legislative session is Gov. Greg Abbott. He refused to do so last year despite pushes from Uvalde parents, state Democrats, a handful of state Republicans, Uvalde CISD, Uvalde City Council and Uvalde County Commissioners.

Despite the lack of action, the families have remained steadfast, advocating for the future mothers, fathers, siblings and grandparents who may one day have their worlds turned upside down by gun violence.

It’s unfortunate to know how many groups like theirs are out there, Arreola said, but they understand they have to advocate for the next victims of gun violence.

“Each one thought they would be the one to make that difference. And we thought the same thing as well,” she said. “Because we are fighting for your child as well.”

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