TEXAS (AFP): An 11-year-old survivor of the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas smeared herself with the blood of a dead classmate in a bid to hide from the gunman.
Miah Cerrillo, who has been left too terrified to speak to men, told CNN she and a friend used a dead teacher’s cellphone to call for help as the 18-year-old shooter gunned down students and teachers at her school in rural Texas.
The testimony is the first to emerge from inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, where Salvador Ramos murdered 19 young children and two teachers in one of the worst mass shootings to strike violence-weary America.
The child, whose hair has begun to fall out in clumps since the massacre, told how Ramos had made eye contact with one teacher as he pushed his way into her classroom.
He then said “Goodnight” and shot the teacher dead, before opening fire with his semi-automatic rifle at the other member of staff and many of Miah’s classmates.
Ramos went into another classroom where terrified children screamed as he shot them, before starting to play loud, sad music, Miah told the network in an off-camera interview.
She and a friend scrabbled for their dead teacher’s cellphone and made an urgent plea to 911 operators: “Please come… we’re in trouble.”
Miah, who was treated for injuries to her head and shoulders, was so scared the teenage gunman would return that she dipped her hands in the blood of a dead friend and smeared it on herself, lying there for what felt like hours until help finally came.
Miah’s mother, Abigale Veloz, has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for the medical and psychological help her daughter needs in the wake of the massacre.
“Her classroom was one of the main rooms that got targeted,” Veloz said on the GoFundMe page.
“She will need a lot of help with all the trauma that she is going through.
“My daughter is (an) amazing person and is a very good sister to her siblings.”
By Friday afternoon, the appeal had raised more than $270,000, well over its original target of $10,000.
‘Evil’ like Texas massacre a reason to arm, not disarm: Trump
Former US president Donald Trump rejected calls for tightened gun controls Friday following the Texas school massacre, saying decent Americans should be allowed the firearms they need to defend themselves against “evil.”
“The existence of evil in our world is not a reason to disarm law-abiding citizens… The existence of evil is one of the very best reasons to arm law-abiding citizens,” he told members of the National Rifle Association.
Trump’s remarks came as he headlined an NRA event in Houston, three days after a gun massacre at a Texas elementary school reignited the tinderbox debate about US gun control.
“The various gun control policies being pushed by the left would have done nothing to prevent the horror that took place. Absolutely nothing,” he said.
An 18-year-old gunman with a legally-bought AR-15-style rifle killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, marking the deadliest school shooting in the state’s history.
Trump read out the names of all 19 children, whom he described as victims of an out-of-control “lunatic,” before suggesting that efforts at gun control were “grotesque.”
“All of us must unite, Republican and Democrat — in every state, and at every level of government — to finally harden our schools and protect our children… What we need now is a top-to-bottom security overhaul at schools across this country,” he added.
Multiple speakers, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, pulled out of the event after the murders but Trump confirmed on Wednesday he would not be canceling his appearance at the NRA’s annual “Leadership Forum.”
President Joe Biden, who upbraided the US gun lobby in the wake of the shootings, is due in Uvalde on Sunday with first lady Jill Biden to “grieve with the community,” White House officials said.
The NRA is considered the most powerful gun rights organization in the country, although its influence has waned as it has become mired in legal battles linked to a corruption scandal.
It has rejected most initiatives to prevent mass shootings, including expanded background checks on gun purchases, although it said ahead of Trump’s speech that audience members would not be allowed to carry firearms.
Republicans in Washington have suggested “hardening” schools with beefed up security — including armed guards posted at a single entry and exit point — rather than restrictions on gun ownership.
They have also spoken of the need to focus on mental health, although critics point out that other nations with stricter gun controls face the same issues and don’t see regular mass shootings.
There have been 214 mass shootings this year in the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
They include a racist massacre at a supermarket in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York, just 10 days before the Texas killings.