Robb Elementary survivor becomes advocate for friends killed in school shooting

‘They don’t deserve to die in vain,” Caitlyne Gonzales says

UVALDE, Texas – “There, all done,” Caitlyne Gonzales said while tying a balloon to Jackie Cazares’ cross.

Jackie was one of 21 victims killed at Robb Elementary on May 24, 2022. The cross memorial in the Uvalde downtown plaza is where Caitlyne comes to visit and feels most connected to her best friend.

Once upon a time, Jackie and Caitlyne had sleepovers constantly at each other’s houses.

“On May 24th, at our awards ceremony, (Jackie) had told my mom, ‘Miss Gladys, I want to go to your guys’ house so we can eat some pancakes again,’” Caitlyne said.

Caitlyne says she still talks to Jackie daily at her mural and memorial site.

“I just tell (Jackie), like, what I did today, like the important stuff of my day,” she said.

Caitlyne said she can hear Jackie’s replies in her heart.

Unfortunately, their next sleepover never came.

“We just kept hearing bangs and bangs and bangs,” she said. “I heard a scream, and it sounded like Jacklyn’s, but I didn’t think it was Jackie.”

Caitlyne keeps Jackie close to her, wearing bows in her hair with Jackie’s name on them. The 10-year-old said she is not afraid of using her voice for change.

“I have messages for Pete Arredondo and all the law enforcement that was there that day too. Turn in your badge and step down. You don’t deserve to wear one,” Caitlyne said to the Uvalde CISD school board on Aug. 24.

“When people say that you’re an activist, what are you an activist for?” reporter Leigh Waldman asked.

“Just like for my friends who don’t have a voice no more,” Caitlyne said.

“For your friends who don’t have a voice anymore, what do you want to say for them?” Waldman asked.

“Just that they don’t deserve to die in vain,” Caitlyne answered.

Caitlyne is a constant fixture at school board meetings. Her goal is to hold adults accountable. She’s also made trips to Washington, D.C., to ask for changes to gun laws.

“I’ll just tell them like to pass the assault weapon ban,” she said.

Though these past seven months have been filled with good days and bad, Caitlyne has a support system of survivors from other school shootings.

“I met some from Oxford, Sandy Hook,” Caitlyne said. “From Parkland and Columbine, which is so -- that’s a long time ago.”

All of them promise the same thing.

“We shouldn’t let none of the kids or teachers die in vain,” she said.

Find more Uvalde coverage from KSAT here

About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.