It was a normal end-of-the-school-year kind of day: a morning awards ceremony, watching a movie in class, and then finishing up work, playing with friends, and "doing whatever we do"—until Gemma Lopez's fourth-grade class heard what Gemma initially thought might be firecrackers. It soon became clear it was gunfire, and the Robb Elementary School student saw police officers outside the classroom window in Uvalde, Texas, Tuesday. She knew what to do: turn off the light, as she'd practiced in lockdown drills, and get under a big classroom table. "Everyone was scared and everything, and I told them to be quiet," Gemma tells the New York Times.
She says she was able to remain fairly calm ("I think I get it from my tío. Because my tío doesn’t get scared at all."), but when she heard "a lot more of the gunshots," she started crying. When a police officer came to evacuate the class to the funeral home across the street, "I think it’s the fastest I’ve run in my entire life," Gemma says. And while she started to feel more safe, "I couldn’t stop crying. I thought the man would come again—to the funeral home this time." Another fourth grader, this one in the classroom where the shooter barricaded himself, gave an even more wrenching account of the massacre to KENS 5. "He shot the next person’s door," he says of the gunman. "We have a door in the middle. He opened it. He came in and he crouched a little bit and he said, he said, 'It's time to die.'"
The boy, who hid under a table with a tablecloth covering it along with four other students, said, "When the cops came, the cop said: 'Yell if you need help!' And one of the persons in my class said 'help.' The guy overheard and he came in and shot her. ... The cop barged into that classroom. The guy shot at the cop. And the cops started shooting." He also confirmed that teachers Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles shielded children with their bodies. They were killed, as were 19 students in the classroom. (Gemma said of shooting drills, "We practice like a lot, since pre-K or kindergarten." The AP has a piece on the children of the "lockdown generation" and how numb some of them have become to school shootings. Read it here.)