UVALDE, Texas — Auraleigha Santos clutched a teddy bear as she stood outside the Uvalde Civic Center and shared her story.
Her class had taken an early recess.
She was sitting on a bench with friends when a coach yelled at them to get inside.
“So we started running inside to a nearby classroom,” she said. “We heard two bangs. Our teacher said they were fireworks and that kids were just messing around But we didn’t think that.”
At 10 years old, Auraleigha was already old enough to figure out an active shooter was targeting her school.
“I was worried because there was only two fourth-grade classrooms, and I didn’t know where the other fourth-graders were, and I was just worried,” Auraleigha said.
Once it was safe, police helped her and other students escape. They were bused to the local civic center, where they reunited with family.
They drove home, turned on the news and learned just how many lives had been lost.
“I just got really scared and I didn’t know who was hurt or dead,” Auraleigha said. “We started looking around on Facebook and I realized all the people I knew were dead.
She knew all of them and was almost one of them.
“She was supposed to be in that class,” said Auraleigha’s father, Juan. “She has three cousins who were supposed to be in that class, but they didn’t go to school. She was in school, but she was on the other side of the campus.”
Juan and his wife, Alyssa, agreed it sounds miraculous that their family is intact, but they can’t stop thinking, “what if?”
“I feel guilty for any ounce of happiness or relief, because so many parents went to bed with empty beds last night,” Alyssa said. “People we’ve grown up with … babies we’ve watched grow up.”
Too many of Auraleigha’s friends will never get to grow up, and too many others just grew up too soon.