A year after a gunman shot and killed 19 children and two adults in a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school, the community is still searching for answers.
The shooting at Robb Elementary is the deadliest school shooting in Texas history and the most fatal school attack in the country since the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn.
In this photo essay, Education Week shares some of the indelible images taken as Uvalde residents confronted their grief, advocated for change, and commemorated the lives lost last year.
A community starts to grieve
Uvalde community groups and churches held vigils and impromptu gatherings in the immediate aftermath of the attack. It was just the first instance of what has become a daily ritual for family and community members.
Survivors of previous school shootings have said grieving is a lifelong process and annual commemorations can be especially difficult.
Tragedy provokes national response
The Uvalde tragedy quickly sparked a national response that fell along achingly familiar lines: whether to address gun laws or “harden” schools through increased security measures.
“I am sick and tired of it,” President Joe Biden said that evening. “We have to act. And don’t tell me we can’t have an impact on this carnage.”
A week later, Biden called on Congress to pass new gun laws, including a ban on assault-style weapons like the powerful rifle used in the attack. No such law was passed, but Congress approved the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which included new funding for school safety and mental health and new restrictions on guns, like an enhanced background check for buyers under 21.
State legislatures around the country debated measures to “harden schools” through armed security and technology like weapons detectors at building entrances. The Texas senate passed a bill Sunday that would create additional state requirements for schools’ safety plans.
Parents press for answers
Parents of Uvalde students and family members of those killed have repeatedly pushed for more transparency about what happened that day, and more accountability for those involved in the response. They have fought with state and local officials for records, including body camera footage, recordings from security cameras, reviews of law enforcement’s response, and other investigatory materials.
It took 376 law enforcement officers from multiple agencies—some carrying ballistic shields and other tactical gear—76 minutes to breach the targeted classrooms and confront the gunman, a state investigation found.
The Uvalde school board eventually fired district police Chief Pete Arredondo after investigators found he failed to coordinate an on-scene response, despite being directed to do so under the school’s safety plan.
An emotional push for new gun laws
Many Uvalde families joined others affected by school shootings in advocating for tougher gun laws, including measures that would close loopholes in background checks and ban the sale of assault-style weapons.
In June, Miah Cerrillo—a 4th grader who was in one of two adjoining classrooms where the attack occurred—told a congressional committee in a prerecorded video how she survived the attack by smearing herself with a friend’s blood and playing dead until the danger passed.
Some Uvalde families continue to advocate for new gun laws, joining with family advocates from previous school shootings in communities like Parkland, Fl., and Newtown.
A community remembers
As Uvalde students returned to school for the 2022-23 school year, their first time in classrooms since the tragedy occurred, the community took steps to memorialize the event.
Artists painted murals of the slain students around town. Robb Elementary will be demolished—a difficult decision because of the layered symbolism of the school.
As Education Week wrote in September, students there staged a walkout to push for equity for Mexican-American students in the 1970s.
Now that pride in the town’s past would is joined by pain as residents considered its future in the wake of the shooting.