Children and parents are capable of acts of staggering courage when it comes to caring for and protecting one another. Sometimes their generosity extends to their fellow citizens. While they should never be expected to make such sacrifices, we must honor those who do.
To the list of Uvalde heroes, add the names of 4th-grader Miah Cerillo, her father Miguel Cerillo, and Kimberly and Felix Rubio, parents of Lexi Rubio. These brave families re-lived the unthinkable trauma of the shooting to testify before House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today in the hopes of convincing lawmakers to take action to prevent further senseless tragedies.
In a pre-recorded video, Cerillo described the unimaginable scene that unfolded in her 4th grade classroom on May 24.
“We were just watching a movie,” she explained, when her teacher was alerted to a threat and went to lock her classroom door. The teacher made eye contact with the gunman before instructing the children to hide.
“We went to hide behind my teacher’s desk and behind the backpacks,” said Cerillo. The gunman then entered through a door that connected the classroom to an adjacent one.
“He told my teacher ‘good night’ and shot her in the head, and then he shot some of my classmates and the whiteboard,” Cerillo said.
“I thought he was gonna come back,” said Cerillo, who smeared the blood of a dead friend on her own body and “stayed quiet,” eventually reaching for her teacher’s phone and calling 911.
Asked if she feels safe at school, Cerillo looked down and shook her head, explaining, “because I don’t want it to happen again.”
Kimberly Rubio told the story of learning that her daughter Lexi had been killed. Sitting beside her husband Felix and testifying through her tears, she spoke of dropping her two youngest children at Robb Elementary School that morning and returning for their respective end-of-year awards ceremonies.
“Lexi received the ‘Good Citizen’ award and was also recognized for receiving all As,” said Rubio. After taking a photo of Lexi and her teacher, the Rubios promised their daughter ice-cream that evening, told her they loved her, and said they would pick her up after school.
Rubio, a journalist, first heard of trouble at the school over the police scanner in her office. Shortly afterward, she heard from her son’s teacher that his class was safe. He was picked up by his grandfather and delivered to a relative’s home.
“We focused on finding Lexi. Bus after bus arrived, but she wasn’t on board.”
They looked for their daughter at local hospitals. Eventually, Rubio felt drawn back to the school, travelling by foot because of stalled traffic.
“I ran. I ran barefoot with my flimsy sandals in my hand. I ran a mile to the school,” she said. Finally, at the civic center, the Rubios were told that their daughter was among the dead.
“We don’t want you to think of Lexi as just a number,” said Rubio. “Today, we stand for Lexi, and as her voice we demand action,” Rubio said, listing a number of commonly-proposed gun control measures.
“If given the opportunity, Lexi would have made a positive change in this world. She wanted to attend St. Mary’s University in San Antonio Texas on a softball scholarship. She wanted to major in math and go on to attend law school. That opportunity was taken from her. She was taken from us,” Rubio testified.
“Somewhere out there is a mom listening to our testimony, thinking, ‘I can’t even imagine their pain,’ not knowing that our reality will one day be hers, unless we act now.”
Politicians and gun violence experts also testified and took questions.
New York City Mayor and former police officer Eric Adams responded to a question about the importance of enacting gun safety laws on the federal level by noting that in New York, which has enacted relatively strict gun control measures, the NYPD has recovered 3,000 guns so far this year, “many purchased or stolen from outside our state,” and has seen a 240% increase in untraceable ‘ghost guns.’
“We need assistance with the partnership of the federal government,” said Adams.
“We are in a crisis, but we are not powerless,” said Representative Carolyn Maloney,D-NY and the hearing’s chair.
Let’s hope that the voices of Miah Cerrillo and Kimberly Rubio are granted the power that is their due, and that lawmakers can finally summon the courage to ban assault weapons and enact other gun control measures to protect children.