This story is part of a KXAN series of reports called “Stop Mass Shootings,” providing context and exploring solutions surrounding gun violence in the wake of the deadly Uvalde school shooting. We want our reports to be a resource for Texans, as well as for lawmakers who are convening a month after the events in Uvalde to discuss how the state should move forward. Explore all “Stop Mass Shootings” stories by clicking here.
WASHINGTON (KXAN) — A pediatrician implored federal lawmakers Wednesday to do something to prevent the kind of carnage he witnessed while treating victims after the Uvalde school shooting.
Dr. Roy Guerrero shared graphic testimony with members of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform. An 11-year-old survivor and the grieving parents of a slain child also testified. A shooter armed with an AR-15 killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School on May 24, and lawmakers are now considering what kinds of legislative actions can be taken to avoid more tragedies from gun violence.
“I know I’ll never forget what I saw that day,” Guerrero said in his prepared remarks.
The morning of May 24, he said, started normally by seeing patients and their parents at his pediatric clinic in Uvalde, the town where he spent his whole life. He even said he grew up going to school at Robb Elementary. However, that day changed when a colleague in San Antonio sent him a text at about 12:30 p.m. asking why pediatricians and anesthesiologists are on call for a mass shooting in Uvalde.
“I raced to the hospital to find parents outside yelling children’s names and desperation and sobbing, as they beg for any news related to their child,” said Guerrero, who served as president of Uvalde Memorial Hospital. “Those mothers’ cries, I will never get out of my head.”
He said the first victim he came across inside the hospital was 11-year-old Miah Cerrillo, who survived the shooting after she said she pretended to be dead inside her classroom. He described her face as looking shocked, and her body shook from adrenaline. He said blood covered the white Lilo and Stitch shirt she wore, and her shoulder bled from a shrapnel injury.
“Sweet Miah, I’ve known her my whole life,” Guerrero said. “As a baby, she survived major liver surgeries against all odds, and once again, she’s here as a survivor, inspiring us with her story today and her bravery.”
A video played after his testimony concluded showing Cerrillo recount witnessing her teacher get shot in the head and then how she spread her friend’s blood all over her shirt to play dead. She said she later got her slain teacher’s phone to call 911 and urge police to save her.
In the hospital hallway, Guerrero said he quickly examined two of his patients who had minor injuries. He then raced back outside the facility to let Cerrillo’s parents know that their daughter had survived. He said they asked him if he had seen Cerrillo’s eight-year-old sister, so he went to the hospital’s surgical area where nurses told him two children’s bodies had been taken. Cerrillo’s sister was not there because she had also lived, but he described the devastation he witnessed.
“What I did find was something no prayer will ever relieve,” Guerrero said. “Two children whose bodies had been pulverized by bullets fired at them, decapitated, whose flesh had been ripped apart. The only clue about their identities was blood-spattered cartoon clothes still clinging to them, clinging for life and finding none.”
He wondered aloud during his testimony why more isn’t being done at the federal level to stop gun violence.
“Innocent children all over the country today are dead because laws and policy allow people to buy weapons before they’re legally old enough to even buy a pack of beer,” Guerrero said. “They’re dead because restrictions have been allowed to lapse. They’re dead because there are no rules about where guns are kept, because no one is paying attention to who’s buying them. The thing I can’t figure out is whether our politicians are failing us out of stubbornness, passivity or both.”
He said other recent mass shootings, like the massacre at the grocery store in Buffalo, New York, should not be easily erased from the “collective conscience.”
“I chose to be a pediatrician. I chose to take care of children,” Guerrero said. “Keeping them safe from preventable diseases, I can do. Keeping them safe from bacteria and brittle bones, I can do, but making sure our children are safe from guns — that’s the job of our politicians and leaders. In this case, you are the doctors, and our country is the patients. We are lying on the operating table riddled with bullets, like the children of Robb Elementary and so many other schools. We are bleeding out, and you are not there.”
He ended his remarks Wednesday with a call to action for Congress.
“My oath as a doctor means that I signed up to save lives. I do my job,” Guerrero said, “and I guess it turns out that I am here to plead, to beg to please, please do yours.”
The people who testified Wednesday are part of a larger effort to push for new gun legislation and better school safety after recent deadly shootings. Actor Matthew McConaughey, whose hometown is Uvalde, spoke at the White House Tuesday to share the list of reforms he’d like to see passed in light of the tragedy there.