WASHINGTON – An 11-year-old girl who survived the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, told in video testimony before Congress on Wednesday how she covered herself in the blood of a dead classmate to avoid being shot and “just kept quiet.”
Miah Cerrillo, a fourth-grader at Robb Elementary School, told lawmakers in recorded video that she witnessed a teacher being shot in the head before looking for a place to hide.
“I thought he was coming back, so I smeared blood on myself,” Miah told the House Committee. “I put everything on myself and just stayed still.” She used the deceased teacher’s phone to call 911 and asked for help.
Nineteen children and two teachers died when an 18-year-old gunman opened fire with an AR-15 rifle at Robb Elementary School on May 24.
It was the second day lawmakers heard harrowing statements about the country’s gun violence. A Senate committee heard about it on Tuesday Son of 86-year-old woman killed when gunman opened fire in racist attack on black shoppers in Buffalo, New York, on May 14. Ten people died.
In Wednesday’s video, Miah’s father, Miguel Cerrillo, asked his daughter if she wasn’t feeling safe at school anymore. She shook her head no.
“Why?” he asks. “I don’t want that to happen again,” she replies.
The testimony before the House Oversight Committee came as lawmakers worked to reach a bipartisan agreement on gun safety measures following back-to-back mass shootings.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y., the panel chair, convened the hearing to focus on the human impact of gun violence and the urgency of gun control legislation.
“I ask every member of this committee to listen with an open heart to the courageous witnesses who have come forward to share their stories of how gun violence has impacted their lives,” Maloney said. “Our witnesses today have endured pain and loss. Yet they are showing incredible courage by coming here to ask us to do our job.”
But even as some lawmakers shed tears alongside the witnesses, the hearing highlighted the contentious debate over gun control that Congress has repeatedly faced in the wake of mass shootings. Several Republicans steered the conversation to the individuals who abuse guns and how “hardening schools” could help protect students.
Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., who owns a gun shop, said one of the things he learned during his military service was that “the harder the target, the less likely you are to be attacked by the enemy.” He called on schools to keep the doors locked, provide a single point of entry, and provide “a volunteer force of well-trained and armed staff in addition to a school resource officer.”
The parents of victims and survivors begged lawmakers not to let their children’s death and pain go to waste. After Miah spoke, her father told lawmakers that he testified because “I could have lost my little girl.”
“But she’s not the same little girl I used to play with,” Cerrillo said. “Schools are no longer safe. Something really needs to change.”
Also a witness was Zeneta Everhart, whose 20-year-old son Zaire was wounded in the mass shooting in Buffalo.
Everhart told lawmakers it was their duty to draft laws that protect Zaire and other Americans. She said if they didn’t find the testimony moving enough to address gun laws, they had an invitation to come to her house to help clean her son’s wounds.
“My son Zaire has a hole on the right side of his neck, two on his back and another on his left leg,” she said, then paused to calm herself. “As I clean his wounds, I can feel bits of that bullet in his back. Shards will remain in his body for the rest of his life. Now I want you to imagine exactly this scenario for one of your children.”
The parents of Lexi Rubio, who died in her classroom in Uvalde, also testified. Felix and Kimberly Rubio shared how they learned of their daughter’s death hours after leaving Lexi’s school awards ceremony, where she had been recognized as an A-student. To celebrate, they had promised to get her ice cream.
To get to elementary school after the shooting, Kimberly Rubio said she walked a mile barefoot with her sandals in hand and her husband by her side. A firefighter eventually took her back to the civic center.
“Shortly after we received the news that our daughter was among 19 students and two teachers who died as a result of gun violence,” she said, fighting back tears.
She said that Lexi would have changed the world for the better if given the chance.
“Somewhere out there a mother is listening to our testimony and thinking I can’t even imagine her pain, not knowing that our reality will be hers one day if we don’t act now,” said Kimberly Rubio.
dr Roy Guerrero harshly described the carnage he witnessed at the local hospital while trying to treat the injured. He went to the area of the hospital where two dead children had been admitted. The bodies were so pulverized, he said, “that the only clue to their identity was the blood-splattered cartoon clothes still clinging to them, clinging for life and finding none.”
After the hearing was over, the Democrat-led House passed laws that would raise the age limit for buying a semi-automatic rifle and would ban the sale of ammunition magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds.
But the legislation has almost no chance of becoming law as the Senate conducts negotiations focused on improving mental health programs, strengthening school safety and improving background checks. The House bill gives Democratic lawmakers a chance to solicit voters in November on where they stand on policies polls show appeals to a majority.
The majority of US adults think there would be fewer mass shootings if guns were harder to come by and that schools and other public places were safer than they were two decades ago.
Chair Maloney ended the lengthy hearing on Wednesday, telling families of victims and survivors that the committee’s work on the issue is continuing. Days after the Uvalde shooting, the committee launched an investigation into five leading manufacturers of semi-automatic weapons used in the two recent shootings.
“In the past few days, the committee has received very disturbing information from these companies,” Maloney said. “I also intend to hold a second hearing to hear directly from the gun industry so they can explain to the American people why they continue to sell the weapons of choice for mass murderers.”
More on the Uvalde, Texas shooting: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting
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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/08/4th-grade-uvalde-survivor-i-dont-want-it-to-happen-again/ “I don’t want it to happen again”