(WSYR-TV) – It’s been just over 4 weeks since 19 school children and 2 teachers had their lives senselessly taken in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
SUNY Oswego Professor Jaclyn Schildkraut, also a national mass shooting expert, focuses on crime statistics, security, and prevention, but she’s opening up to NewsChannel 9 about her emotional trip to Uvalde.
Schildkraut, who now lives in Central New York, is from Parkland, Florida where 17 people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018.
It’s safe to say the tragedy in Uvalde hits close to home for her.
At the time of her visit, Schildkraut was presenting at a school safety conference in San Antonio, but she knew she had to make the trip to Uvalde.
Schildkraut said she felt compelled to “help the helpers,” specifically the volunteers at the Uvalde Family Assistance Center. She wanted to bring cookies to the heroes giving support to those directly affected by the shooting.
It was a seemingly simple exchange at La Superior Bakery in San Antonio, but it was one that left a lasting impact.
Schildkraut handed over the $38.00 for the six dozen cookies and left, driving one and a half hours from San Antonio to Uvalde.
The highway she was traveling on turned into a rural road. Homes were spread out with farmland in between each of them.
With the boxes of cookies in hand, Jaclyn arrived at the Family Assistance Center around 4:30 in the afternoon. There, she was greeted by a woman with a warm southern smile thanking her for coming.
Jaclyn also stopped at the Uvalde Town Square, transformed into a growing memorial overflowing with photos of every victim, crosses, angel wings, posters, candles, and flowers piled high.
She was one of a handful of people milling about the memorial taking in each photo and token.
Something that stood out for Jaclyn was the glitter around Amerie Garza’s cross, which made her wonder if she and the 10-year-old shared a similar love for glitter.
After Jaclyn’s mom passed away, she started seeing yellow butterflies. At that moment in Town Square, she saw tons of butterflies.
“I wondered if those were the angels staying back to let everyone know they are okay,” she asked.
Jaclyn’s last stop on the trip was the most difficult at Robb Elementary School.
With an ache in her chest, she stood in front of the school. She describes the memorial there as silent other than the sound of wind blowing and rustling the flowers and the sniffles from people trying to hold back the cries.
Jaclyn saw an older woman with tears running down her face. Initially, she thought she was alone so Jaclyn walked over to the woman and offered her hand. She took it.
The woman said to Jaclyn, “I was a 4th-grade teacher here. I’ve since retired but I felt I had to come back for these kids.”
To meet them and to know that they’re going through the exact same feelings, to feel left behind and to feel alone when everybody moves on…it was something we could bond over. I just stood there and I just questioned everything I’ve been doing for the last 15 years because I am one voice and I try to be loud, but it just feels like sometimes I’m yelling into a void. It’s hard to want so bad to make this go away for everybody and I can’t.JACLYN SCHILDKRAUT, SUNY OSWEGO PROFESSOR, NATIONAL MASS SHOOTING EXPERT
You can read Jaclyn’s full essay here.