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'They trusted me to save them': Uvalde teacher opens up about struggles with survivor's guilt and trauma

Mr. Reyes was shot twice and survived the shooting at Robb Elementary. He lost every student in his classroom on May 24.

UVALDE, Texas — Mr. Arnulfo Reyes’s life in Uvalde looks a lot different these days.  

On a Tuesday afternoon, the former fourth grade teacher at Robb Elementary School cuddled his new chihuahua puppy named Zeus.  

Reyes sat back in his recliner and looked down at the scar on his left arm.  

It’s a constant reminder of what he endured during the May 24 shooting.

“It’s been difficult,” Reyes said.  

Inspirational teacher quotes and pictures of his former life as a teacher fill his home. Quiet surrounds him.  

“The hardest part right now… the constant reminders,” Reyes said.   

As the chaos at Robb Elementary unfolded, the fourth grade teacher told his students in room 111 to hide and act like they were asleep.  

He wanted them to close their eyes and not see what now haunts him daily. 
The teacher was shot and survived. 

Unable to move, he heard and watched as all 11 students in his class that day were killed. 

"These parents lost a child, but I lost 11,” Reyes said. 

He calls them his angels. It was one of the favorite classes he had ever taught. 

Reyes described the students in room 111 as a class that had a close bond and always looked out for one another.  

His eyes lit up as he described some of the happy memories he shared with the group. They wanted him to continue teaching them into a new school year.

“They were like, Mr. Reyes can you go teach fifth grade? We don’t wanna leave you,” Reyes said. “And I was like, no I cannot teach fifth grade!" Reyes said as he smiled. 

His eyes began to well up. He took a deep breath and paused. 

"They all had their own little personalities... it was just nice to have them,” Reyes said.   

He told WFAA that he misses his students every single day. Hearing about the back to school season is difficult for him.  

“I have the what ifs... or what would they be doing?” Reyes said.  

Those painful thoughts dominate his mind. Investigations that have pointed to failures in law enforcement’s response make his grief even more overwhelming.  

“I don’t want them to die in vain and not be able to have justice,” Reyes said.  

Reyes lived, but his life is forever changed.  

"I kind of lost a part of myself that day also, I lost who I was,” Reyes said. “I kind of feel lost. I don't know what to do with myself. 

Every scar, every name, and the faces of his students painted onto murals across town take him back to the horror.  

“If I go into a small room, I automatically look for the exit signs,” Reyes said. “I don’t like to feel like I’m trapped.” 

He takes it day by day and continues working hard to overcome trauma and survivor’s guilt. Instead of back-to-school events, Reyes's calendar is filled with doctor visits and therapy appointments.

"They trusted me. Absolutely, that’s why I think I have a hard time with everything, because I think they trusted me to save them,” Reyes said.  

That’s the thought that keeps him up every night.

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