Reyes underwent more than 10 surgeries. He was met by a wave of visitors from the town, who brought him food and gifts.
Trigger warning: This article contains themes of gun violence that some readers may find distressing.
A fourth-grade teacher who was shot in the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, was released from the hospital last weekend and was greeted outside his home by the people of the town. Arnulfo Reyes underwent more than 10 surgeries. He was met by a wave of visitors from the town, who brought him food and gifts. The video of the heartwarming gesture has gone viral as the town struggles to heal from the tragedy that took the lives of 19 children and two teachers. Volunteers have brought Reyes meals, mowed his lawn and helped with daily activities including getting him to appointments, reported NPR. "This community has really ... come together and done so much together," he said.
Reyes, who has been teaching at Robb Elementary School for seven years, is eaten by guilt about what more he could have done to protect his students. During the parade, the mom of one of his students who was killed, gave him a long hug and the pair cried. "She had to come and tell me herself that, no, it was not my fault. I had felt guilty," said Reyes. "I did what I was supposed to do. But I still had that guilty feeling, like, what else could I have done?"
Reyes recalls the day tragedy hit Robb Elementary School, where he taught. He was in room 111 with 11 of his students watching a movie when he heard shots go off in room 112. As the shooter appeared outside his classroom, he instructed his students in Room 111 to hide. "I told my students, 'Just go under the desk and act like you're asleep,'" he recalls. "I wanted them to close their eyes and not see a thing." As he tried to move away from his table toward the students, he was shot in his left arm. Reyes feared that it would be his final moments. "I pretty much had already given my life ... to God and said, 'You know, please don't let my children die in vain,'" Reyes said. "If it's my time, it's my time."
He fell onto his stomach, bleeding profusely. The gunman shot all 11 kids hiding under the table. None of them survived. "Parents lost one child. Families lost one child. But I lost 11 that day," said Reyes. He regrets that there were things the school could have done to help secure the door. He played dead and kept praying for someone to rescue him. The shooter was still in the room. "I could feel, hear him breathing," recalled Reyes. The shooter opened fire at him, striking his back. Reyes' lungs started to fill with fluid and he struggled to breathe. Finally, police shot and killed Ramos, the shooter. The cops carried him to an ambulance where a chest tube helped ease his breathing. He was then flown to San Antonio for treatment.
Reyes is furious that the cops didn't intervene for more than an hour after the first rounds had been fired. "There's really no excuse for 77 minutes," said Reyes. It's more hurtful that the Uvalde school district Police Chief Pete Arredondo is his second cousin on his maternal side. Arredondo hasn't spoken to Reyes since the shooting. Arredondo had claimed that he was searching for the keys to the room's door but Reyes says with the door knob not fixed, Arredondo never needed one to open the door. "I wish that he would have said, 'I'm going to go in there because that's my family.' But he didn't," said Reyes. Arredondo has since resigned from his post.