‘One Year In: Uvalde’ — The Recovery

KSAT 12 interviewed survivors, families of victims, policymakers and residents for project dedicated to Uvalde community

This story is part of KSAT’s interactive project “One Year In: Uvalde,” which honors victims and survivors of the Robb Elementary School shooting on May 24, 2022.

Mayah Zamora, a student in Room 112, was shot seven times in her chest, back, arms and hands. She’s one of 11 children in Room 112 who survived.

Now, Mayah signs her paintings with her initials, surrounded by a heart. Smiley faces adorn several pieces of art she showed to KSAT during an interview at the family’s home.

Mayah Zamora, who survived the Robb Elementary School shooting, sits with her artwork during an interview with KSAT 12 News. (KSAT)

Her father, Ruben Zamora, asked Mayah to show off one of her projects that’s dear to him.

“It says being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had,” said Mayah, holding a canvas that included flowers around the poem.

She made it for her mother, Christina, as they’ve had to uproot their lives and move to San Antonio so Mayah could attend doctor’s appointments.

“She cries a lot, and … I want her to know she’s strong,” Mayah said.

Mayah spent just over two months at University Hospital in San Antonio and went through more than 60 surgeries.

Christina and Ruben Zamora say their daughter is making progress in her recovery, and her therapy is boosting her confidence.

She’s trying to get stronger — she’s set on learning how to do a cartwheel again — but there will be more surgeries before then.

Her day includes school in the mornings and appointments in the afternoons, mainly for therapy or follow-ups.

“It’s to the point where you don’t have a choice, you just go,” Ruben Zamora said.

Christina and Ruben Zamora look over their daughter, Mayah, who was injured during the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde. (KSAT)

They keep moving forward and Mayah keeps painting.

“I don’t think there’s enough paint in Hobby Lobby for Mayah,” he said. “I guess that’s her getaway.”

The Zamoras said the good days are starting to outweigh the bad, and even on her hard days, she’s resilient. They feel survivor’s guilt, they said, but they won’t let the tragedy win.

“It’s been pretty hard on Mayah losing her friends but she’s just so strong,” Christina Zamora said, adding that Mayah was good friends with Makenna.

They have noticed changes in their daughter; she’s not as talkative and she’s more fearful. They stay away from fireworks and movies with gunfire, but keeping her circle small has helped her feel safe, they said.

“She shows a fear of this world that she’s never had before,” Christina Zamora said.

They added that someday, they will move back to Uvalde, the place they know as home.

Back in Uvalde, a group of survivors have found solace in each other. From one day to the next, they started hanging out at each other’s houses, spending time swimming in the pool or riding golf carts.

AJ Martinez and Jaydien Canizales are among the students in Room 112 who survived the attack. AJ suffered a gunshot wound to his upper right thigh and was grazed in the lower back. Jaydien’s scars are mental.

Their mothers said having each other’s company has helped them cope. It gives them a chance to be kids again, and they’re even fundraising for a trip to Disneyland for the week of May 24.

“They’re reliving their life again and that’s what we wanted,” AJ’s mother Kassandra Martinez said.

AJ and Jaydien bond around sports and video games. AJ wants to be a famous NBA player and Jaydien wants to be a quarterback in the NFL.

AJ Martinez, who was injured during the Robb Elementary School shooting, bonds with another survivor, Jaydien Canizales, around sports. AJ wants to be a professional sports player but due to his injuries he won’t be able to play “like a normal kid," his mother said. (KSAT)

But due to AJ’s injuries, his mother said, he won’t be able to play sports “like a normal kid.” His injury has disabled him, and he has a mass on his thigh that can’t be removed.

He still plays sports, but his mother said it becomes too painful for him.

“It’s sad because that’s his new life and it’s not fair to him because he had that taken away,” Kassandra Martinez said. “I don’t know what else to do for my son besides staying positive and trying to let him enjoy his life with his friends.”

During the shooting, AJ ran, hid under a pile of backpacks and acted as if he were dead, his mother said.

Jaydien’s mother Azeneth Rodriguez said Jaydien wanted to help his friends, but he couldn’t move or else the shooter would have seen him.

He realized the scope of the tragedy when he walked out from under a table.

Outside the campus, no one had mentioned anything about a shooting when bus driver Sylvia Uriegas was told to drive to a situation at Robb.

She arrived to find chaos, then horror. Sitting on her bus, she saw law enforcement arrive in droves and parents visibly upset.

She still didn’t understand what was happening; her phone kept ringing but she didn’t answer. She soon learned about an active shooter in the school.

There’s no way somebody is shooting kids,” she believed at the time.

Reality hit when she heard gunshots. Moments later she saw law enforcement running from the school with injured children in their arms, approaching her bus.

“All you hear was the kids crying, yelling for their moms. It’s like every kid that got on was just yelling ‘mom,’” she said. “It was so chaotic that I couldn’t hear anything else.”

As the children ran to the back of the bus, she and the officers tried to find anything they could to help the wounded. She ended up driving three students to the hospital, and they survived their injuries.

Sylvia Uriegas is a bus driver for Uvalde CISD. She said she helped transport injured students from the Robb Elementary School to the hospital following the shooting on May 24, 2022. (KSAT)

Before heading back to the school to help again, she swapped out her bus, No. 19, with another, knowing the bus was unsuitable to transport kids due to the amount of blood on the back seats.

It’s bittersweet knowing that the kids she transported that day survived their injuries, she said.

One of her regular students, Alithia Ramirez, died that day. Uriegas described her as “the best kid on the bus.”

Uriegas no longer drives bus No. 19, and has only visited it once since the shooting. She only walked to the second seat; she didn’t want to look toward the back of the bus.

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About the Authors

Rebecca Salinas is an award-winning digital journalist who joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

Leigh Waldman is an investigative 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.

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