'People kept saying that it was fireworks,' Adalynn recalled. 'I said, 'No, it was a gun'... because a firework does not sound like that.'
When the sound of gunfire rang across Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, 9-year-old Adalynn Garza and some of her peers took shelter in a classroom and practiced what they'd been taught about the Standard Response Protocol.
They knew through the regularly conducted lockdown drills that they had to turn off the lights and avoid drawing attention to themselves. "I just sat down and stayed at a level zero," Adalynn recounted to PEOPLE. "That means no talking and stay quiet." As the children hid, 19 of their schoolmates and two teachers in the fourth-grade building were shot dead by an 18-year-old shooter.
Here are the victims of the Uvalde, Texas, elementary school shooting.— AJ+ (@ajplus) May 25, 2022
Families are mourning the loss of their children after a gunman opened fire at a fourth-grade classroom, killing 19 students and two teachers. pic.twitter.com/TqwRiKGa3W
"People kept saying that it was fireworks," Adalynn recalled. However, as she heard loud pops coming from across the school, the third-grader feared something worse was happening. "I said, 'No, it was a gun'... because a firework does not sound like that," she said. Although particularly astute for her age, Adalynn still has a lot to process about the traumatizing day. The youngster told reporters that one of her cousins had to climb out a window to escape the fourth-grade building and got sliced by glass on the way out.
NEW: Documents show that Uvalde had done extensive preparations for active shooters, including a training that brought together officers from five agencies who roamed hallways with their guns drawn, role-playing how to stop a killer.— Mike Baker (@ByMikeBaker) May 26, 2022
It didn’t help.https://t.co/vE11bemXYg
Meanwhile, another one of her cousins got her nose "cut off" after she was shot in the face and legs, said Adalynn. A third cousin had a bullet go through her arm but is fortunately home now as "she made it through surgery." Adalynn revealed she couldn't sleep in the aftermath of the shooting. "I couldn't sleep last night. Because when I was sleeping it just came through my head," she said. Speaking to CNN, a Texas law enforcement official said Thursday that the suspect, Salvador Ramos—who shot his grandmother and crashed his truck in a ditch outside the school at 11:28 a.m—was not confronted by police before he entered the school.
A video recorded outside Robb Elementary School on Tuesday reveals new details about the timeline of the Uvalde shooting and shows parents who shouted the police response was inadequate and sluggish.— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) May 26, 2022
Visual Forensics video reporter Joyce Lee explains more. pic.twitter.com/Pd2sBIBKuk
"He walked in unobstructed initially," Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Regional Director Victor Escalon said. "So from the grandmother's house, to the (ditch), to the school, into the school, he was not confronted by anybody." According to Escalon, the shooter walked in through an apparently unlocked door at 11:40 a.m. and walked into a classroom and fired more than 25 times. Although officers arrived at the school at 11:44 a.m, about an hour passed before a US Border Patrol tactical team came to the classroom, forced entry and fatally shot the suspect, he said.
As Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) attended a vigil Wednesday for the victims of the massacre in Uvalde, Tex., he stormed away from an interview after he was asked by a British journalist why mass shootings happen “only in America.” pic.twitter.com/j7o7d9vfzW— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) May 26, 2022
Despite his death, Robb Elementary students will have a difficult time feeling safe at school in the future. "Unfortunately, to say that we can do one step and our kids will get over this and we'll all be over this [is false]. This has long-lasting effects on all of us," said Dr. Daniel Guzman of the Cook Children's Health Care System. "Letting the children know that we're there for them––that despite this horrific incident that occurred, that we are here to help them get through this and that they're safe. It doesn't feel that way right now obviously. It's going to take months, if not years, for these families to heal. The healing takes time." In the meantime, Adalynn shared that she feels "scared," because "what happens when it happens again?"
Cover Image Source: People visit memorials for victims of Tuesday's mass shooting at a Texas elementary school, in the City of Uvalde Town Square on May 26, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)