In the first hours and days after the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, officials said they discovered how the gunman got into a supposedly secure building.
“The outside door,” a top Texas police official told reporters, “is open to a teacher.”
That statement by Col. Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, would be quietly retracted within days. Instead, DPS officials later said, the “teacher” had closed the door, but for some reason, it didn’t lock, even though it should have been done automatically.
The school staffer McCraw mentioned — the woman who called 911 to report the gunman was on her way to enter Robb Elementary School — said the accusation and the events of May 24 will forever reverberate in her life.
Speaking publicly to ABC News for the first time, Emilia “Amy” Marin, a school aide who worked with students after school, said she still struggles with post-traumatic stress from the shooting and its aftermath. She insists the world know what happened and what happened on that unspeakably ugly hot sunny morning in South Texas.
“I died that day,” Marin said in an interview with ABC News correspondent John Quinones.
“Now, I’m lost and sometimes I go to a dark place. It’s hard when I’m there, but I tell myself, ‘You can’t let him win, you can’t let him win,'” she said, referring to the gunman. “I’m a fighter, I’m okay. I’m just going to learn to live with this.”
By now, everyone knows the number of casualties from the Uvalde massacre: 19 students and two of their teachers were killed in a shooting by an 18-year-old former student of the school in the last days before the summer holidays. What sent him to that school on that mission is under investigation. Macro will update the investigation’s progress when he testifies in Austin later this week.
In the months since the violence, official information from authorities has been limited, focusing mostly on the poor response of police, who did not try to stop the shooting for more than an hour. For Marin, who said she still can’t work and continues to replay the May 24 minutes in her head, the fight now defines her life.
“I suffer mentally, of course, emotionally,” she said. “I suffer from post-traumatic arthritis and it’s very painful. There are nights when everyone goes to bed and I wake up in pain and my daughter tells me … ‘Mommy, soak in the tub.’ I tell her I can’t because I can’t get out.
“I sit there at night and replay that day in my mind,” Marin said as she recounted the events of a day that saw one of the worst school shootings in American history.
“I see the faces of those victims. I pray for them every night,” she said. “But what I was going through, McCroe didn’t know. Nobody knew. But it was so easy for him to point the finger at me. I told my mentor a few weeks ago, ‘I wish he had shot me. Me too.’ Because the pain is excruciating, and when you have high-ranking people like McCraw, you think they know their job well. He doesn’t know what his words have done.
“I’ll never be the person I was before,” she said. “I died that day. I see the windows and the fence around campus. I tell my counselor, ‘I’m there. I’m still there.’
In a statement to ABC News, DPS spokesman Travis Considine explained: “Early in the investigation, DPS reported that an unnamed teacher at Robb Elementary School used a rock to pry open the door the shooter used to enter the school building. The same teacher removed the rock from the door prior to the shooter’s arrival and was unaware the door was open. It was later determined that the door was closed.
“DPS has corrected this error in public announcements and testimony and apologizes to the teacher and her family for the additional grief they caused an already horrific situation,” Considine said.
Marin worked as a speech pathologist in the special education program at Robb Elementary and coordinated after-school programs, and said she always wanted to work with children.
“I’ve always loved kids and always wanted to be around them,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re having a bad day, they always make it better.”
A native of San Angelo, Texas, about 200 miles north of Uvalde, Marin said she wanted the country to know what she did that day when she faced the worst-case scenario: A man walking straight up with a rifle and an untold amount of ammunition. For the door of the elementary school where she worked. It’s the first time she’s detailed those events to anyone outside her family or law enforcement.
While getting ready for an end-of-school party that morning, Marin heard a gray Ford pickup crash outside and called 911, thinking someone had been hurt.
“I walked out, and then they yelled that he had a gun, and I ran back, I ran into the building, and I closed the door,” she said. “I tell the operator he’s shooting and I could hear the kids screaming.”
Marin said the children were running for their lives outside the playground.
“I could hear the kids screaming. I closed the door. I went in and knocked on the teacher’s door across from me. I’m knocking,” she continued. “She opened it. She said ‘What’s going on?’ I said there was a shooter on campus.
Still on the phone with emergency operators, Marin decided to take cover when he heard gunshots.
“There was shooting and it wouldn’t stop, he was shooting,” she said. “I looked around and hid under the counter. The whole time I was asking the operator, ‘Where are the cops? Where are the cops?’
But nearly 400 law enforcement officers who were on the scene did not rush into the classroom, where the killer huddled with his victims for more than an hour. That slow response led to a widespread chorus of criticism for the police and federal agents who responded to Rob that day. The school district’s police chief was fired, and one of the Texas state troopers was fired. A second trooper who left DPS to work for the Uvalde school system was fired from the district. The superintendent of schools stunned a grieving community when he announced his retirement this month.
Marin said she wonders if her own death could have saved the children in those first moments.
“Every day they tell me, ‘You were there for a reason, God put you there for a reason.’ I want to know why,” she said. “If I had gone outside a few seconds later I would have seen him outside, he would have shot me, he would have shot me, would I have saved them all? Would I have given those teachers time to save them and the kids? ?”
In the days after the shooting, she says, many of the employees who survived were gripped by disbelief.
“Is it like it really happened? We always say it’s not going to happen here. It’s not going to happen in our town,” she said. “Like at Sandy Hook, you see this story and it happens. It can happen anywhere.”
When Marin heard McCraw personally blame her for the shooter’s ability to gain access to the school, her daughter had to take her to the hospital.
“I was shaking from head to toe,” she said. “The nurse went out and my boss came in and told her I closed that door.”
After the shooting, Marin said he asked to speak with Uvalde Schools Superintendent Hal Harrell. She said Harrell wouldn’t come to see her in the hospital and eventually never spoke to Marin again.
“The administration let us down. They failed us. He could have defended me. He knew who the ‘teacher’ was and chose not to,” Marin said. “There’s no point when you dedicate your life to working for the district.”
“I wish he would have handled it differently. It costs nothing to vet your employees,” she said. “I haven’t heard from the administration since the incident.”
Harrell announced this month that he would step down next week. His spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Exactly five months to the day of the shooting, Marin said she was ready to fight for herself.
“Maybe a lot of people don’t know it’s me,” she said. “But they’re going to know now, I’m always the type. Like, I’m going to be respectful, but I’m going to speak up. People don’t like what you’re talking about. But you defend yourself and I know I have to defend myself.”
Marin has filed suit against the manufacturer of the gun used in the Rob shooting, and is considering other legal avenues.
She said she was disturbed by the fractures that had developed in her city.
“We have to come together as a community and work through this and help these families and everyone involved,” she said. “They say we Uvalde are strong. We’re not. We’re divided. How can we divide the 19+ lives lost? It doesn’t make sense.
As for McCraw, who blamed him for the massacre, Marin said he had a message.
“To Mr. McCraw: When something like that happens, it’s your job to investigate. You sit there and investigate. Your job was to sit there and watch that video from beginning to end. You chose not to.”
Uvalde:365 is an ongoing ABC News series reported from Uvalde that focuses on the Texas community and how it copes in the shadow of tragedy.