CNN

Uvalde boy shows exceptional resilience as he goes back to school with a smile on his face and photos of his classmates on his chest

Sep 7, 2022, 7:00 AM
school police chief Texas no radio...
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

 (CNN) — The last time AJ Martinez was in school was May 24, when he was shot through the thigh as he hid under backpacks while a gunman murdered his two teachers and 19 fellow students at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas.

He saw the shooter come to his classroom and heard him tell his teacher, “Goodnight,” before he unleashed a torrent of shots from his assault-style rifle. AJ also heard law enforcement officers outside in the hallways during the 77 minutes that it took from the time the gunman entered the small-town school to when he was ultimately confronted and killed.

AJ left school that day with someone else’s blood on his face, likely from lying on the floor with the dead and the injured. Since then, he’s been sad, he’s been angry and he’s been fearful. And he’s done a lot of physical therapy.

But when the new school year began Tuesday, AJ, now 10, walked up with a broad smile on his face.

“I slept good,” he told CNN, wearing a maroon T-shirt with pictures of his slain teachers, Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia, and the 19 lost children with the words, “My teachers and classmates forever.”

Robb Elementary is closed and its students have been spread out across other institutions and virtual schooling. The graduating fourth graders were always set to move, but it is still hard.

“I’m nervous because I’m not used to this school,” AJ conceded, his smile still strong.

It was his decision to go back to in-person schooling, his mom Kassandra Chavez said. She walked next to him on the first day and did not share her son’s buoyant outlook.

“I’m just nervous,” she said. “I’m just trying to be there supporting him. That’s all I can (do).”

Chavez wore an “Uvalde Strong” T-shirt honoring the victims and all who were left. Many of the staff at AJ’s new school also had on the maroon and white of Robb Elementary.

AJ said he wasn’t sure if there would be new friends at his new school, Flores Elementary. His smile faded for just a moment when he was asked about the children on his shirt, the ones who don’t get to go back to school.

In July, his mother told CNN the advice she gave him when he became angry that he would never see his teachers and classmates again.

“You have to be strong,” Chavez said she would tell him, “Because that’s what they would want you to do. Remember them, carry their legacy, like they would want you to do.”

So, wearing their images proudly on his chest, AJ got ready for school.

And with the excitement and trepidation of any first day, he walked into fifth grade.

Today’s Top Stories

CNN

Hurricane Ian Satellite image (CNN)...
Elizabeth Weiler

Hurricane Ian’s ‘extremely dangerous’ eyewall near Category 5 strength is moving ashore in southwestern Florida

DeSantis activated 5,000 Florida National Guard members for Ian's response operations, and 2,000 more guardsmen from Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina were being activated to assist.
17 hours ago
(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)...
Jennifer Hansler, CNN

US Embassy warns Americans to leave Russia

 (CNN) — The U.S. Embassy in Moscow issued a security alert overnight that urged U.S. citizens to leave Russia immediately while there are still options for departing the country. The alert comes in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order for partial mobilization of Russian men to fight in his war in Ukraine. “Russia […]
17 hours ago
An illustration shows NASA's DART spacecraft and the Italian Space Agency's LICIACube before the co...
Ashley Strickland, CNN

NASA’s DART mission successfully slams into an asteroid

Deemed as a success, a NASA spacecraft intentionally slammed into an asteroid in the first attempt of planetary defense.
2 days ago
Hurricane Ian could be the storm that the west coast of Florida has always feared -- especially Tam...
Jennifer Gray, CNN Meteorologist

Here’s why meteorologists say Ian’s exact path is still uncertain

Hurricane Ian could be the storm that the west coast of Florida has always dreaded.
2 days ago
In this photo provided by Wreckhouse Press a home fights against high winds caused by post Tropical...
Nouran Salahieh, CNN

Hundreds of thousands without power in Atlantic Canada after Fiona rumbles north

The storm named Fiona slammed into Canada's eastern seaboard with hurricane-force winds and torrential rainfall Saturday, pulling buildings into the ocean.
3 days ago
Tropical Storm Ian...
Haley Brink, Dakin Andone and Nouran Salahieh, CNN

Florida officials urge residents to prepare for Tropical Storm Ian, forecast to be a major hurricane before it reaches Cuba

Floridians are bracing for Tropical Storm Ian, which is expected to rapidly intensify and become a hurricane on Monday before hitting western Cuba.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Uvalde boy shows exceptional resilience as he goes back to school with a smile on his face and photos of his classmates on his chest