UNITED STATES NEWS

ABC News crew spends year in Uvalde, documents journey of survivors, families of shooting victims

May 18, 2023, 8:22 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — After most mass shootings that capture the public’s attention, national news organizations will send reporters for a few days, a week maybe, before moving on. There’s always another community, another tragedy.

ABC News tried something different after 19 elementary school students and two teachers were shot and killed in Uvalde, Texas, last May.

The journalists stayed.

For a year, ABC News kept a team in Uvalde. The result is a nuanced portrait of what happens over time to a suffering community, as seen in the two-hour documentary, “It Happened Here — A Year in Uvalde,” that airs Friday on ABC and Saturday on Hulu.

“What we discovered has been profoundly moving and inspiring and, we hope, useful,” said ABC News President Kim Godwin.

The story’s richness is in the details: There are the children’s rooms left undisturbed since May 24, 2022, the brush a parent can’t give up because it contains a dead girl’s hair, the survivor made upset by the sound of a block of ice being cracked, and the once-carefree boy who worries a lot. And we see a father who sits at his daughter’s grave each night to talk to her.

There are those who lived but deal every day with survivor’s guilt, and there’s the mother who torments herself for not letting her daughter come home with her after a morning awards assembly.

ABC’s idea was born out of a desire to bring something new to stories that have taken on a numbing familiarity.

“I don’t think that any community should be defined by a tragedy that befalls it,” said Cindy Galli, executive producer of ABC’s investigative unit.

A core team of about a dozen people were assigned to the project, a significant commitment at a time when ABC News, like many other news organizations, is cutting staff. The team, with reporters John Quinones, Maria Elena Salinas and Mireya Villarreal, rotated in and out depending on other assignments.

The project enabled the journalists to get to know community members and build trust by talking to them without cameras running all the time, she said.

“One of the aspects of being in a small community is that we would run into people at Starbucks or the grocery store,” Galli said. “They knew that we were there and knew that we were there for the long haul.”

That was important to families dealing with their grief, said Kimberly Rubio, whose daughter Lexi was killed in the attack. Rubio was featured in a segment early in the film, talking about how she uses time spent jogging to reflect upon what happened to her daughter.

“It also helped that it wasn’t different reporters all the time,” Rubio said. “I had two that I worked with. It made it much easier for me to be vulnerable.”

The ABC team filed more than 200 stories during its time in Uvalde, Galli said. Their presence enabled them to break news, such as when Quinones got the first interview with a woman falsely accused of leaving a door open at the school that the killer used for access.

Questions about why it took police more than an hour to enter the affected classrooms kept Uvalde in headlines longer than most mass shootings. ABC’s access deepened the documentary’s narrative retelling of the story, with recordings of a chilling 911 call from a trapped girl pleading for a police response to the gunman.

“I had a pencil,” said Arnie Reyes, a teacher injured that day whose recovery is followed by ABC. “It’s not the same battle.”

The documentary talks about tensions in Uvalde between affected parents and people who supported school administrators and police. That aspect of the story points out a hole in ABC’s reporting, although it’s not necessarily their fault: The network had trouble getting people in law enforcement and their supporters to talk.

Lexi’s dad, Felix Rubio, eventually resigned his job as a deputy police officer, explaining that he couldn’t go back to work with people who didn’t rush into the school to try and save the children.

The film also traces the growing activism of Kimberly Rubio and 10-year-old Caitlyne Gonzales in seeking legislation to prevent future school shootings.

“There are vital details, nuances that are missed, when we as reporters parachute in and out” of a story, Quinones said.

The extended assignment meshed with how Quinones likes to report such stories. He doesn’t see the point of reporters trying to force themselves on people when they don’t want to talk. There were times when he had to step away, like when a family he’d been talking to learned that their child might have survived if police had moved more quickly.

The entire experience was eye-opening for the network, Galli said. Following the Uvalde team’s lead, an ABC digital team is spending time in Buffalo, where 10 people were killed in a mass shooting, also in May 2022.

Quinones, a Mexican American who grew up in nearby San Antonio, said the extended Uvalde assignment has been the most powerful story he’s ever been involved in.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the kind of story that will live with me forever,” he said.

United States News

FILE - An orca swims past a recreational boat sailing just offshore in the Salish Sea in the San Ju...

Associated Press

To keep whales safe, Coast Guard launches boat alert system in Seattle

SEATTLE (AP) — Photographer Matt McDonald had lived on Puget Sound for years, but had never seen a whale, so he was elated when he spotted a giant marine mammal just off Seattle’s waterfront one evening. The excitement was short-lived. As McDonald tracked the whale in his camera’s viewfinder, a state ferry that dwarfed the […]

2 hours ago

FILE - From left, Glenn Horowitz, Craig Inciardi and Edward Kosinski appear in criminal court after...

Associated Press

An unusual criminal case over handwritten lyrics to ‘Hotel California’ goes to trial Wednesday

NEW YORK (AP) — A curious criminal case involving handwritten lyrics to the classic rock megahit “Hotel California” and other Eagles favorites is going to trial in a New York courtroom, with opening statements set for Wednesday. The three defendants, all well-established in the collectibles world, are accused of scheming to thwart Eagles co-founder Don […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Family friend of Texas girl Audrii Cunningham facing charges in 11-year-old’s death, prosecutor says

A family friend of 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham was in jail Wednesday as prosecutors say they plan to charge him in the girl’s death after her body was found in a river near her rural Texas home. Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons said the body of the young girl — who went missing last week — […]

3 hours ago

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South L...

Associated Press

It’s an election year, and Biden’s team is signaling a more aggressive posture toward the press

NEW YORK (AP) — Occupants of the White House have grumbled over news coverage practically since the place was built. Now it’s Joe Biden’s turn: With a reelection campaign underway, there are signs that those behind the president are starting to more aggressively and publicly challenge how he is portrayed. Within the past two weeks, […]

3 hours ago

Emily Hollenbeck, a deep brain stimulation therapy patient, demonstrates an EEG device that records...

Associated Press

A pacemaker for the brain helped a woman with crippling depression. It may soon offer hope to others

NEW YORK (AP) — Emily Hollenbeck lived with a recurring depression she likened to a black hole, where gravity felt so strong and her limbs so heavy she could barely move. She knew the illness could kill her. Both her parents had taken their lives. She was willing to try something extreme: Having electrodes implanted […]

4 hours ago

FILE - Election judges demonstrate the accuracy of the city's voting equipment on Oct. 28, 2022, in...

Associated Press

Election officials in the US face daunting challenges in 2024. And Congress isn’t coming to help

WASHINGTON (AP) — With election season already underway, some state election officials are expressing frustration that Congress has yet to allocate federal money they have come to rely on to help cover the costs of securing their systems from attacks, updating equipment and training staff. Election officials face a long list of challenges this year, […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

ABC News crew spends year in Uvalde, documents journey of survivors, families of shooting victims