Noah was only 10, but his father and mother were already worried about what this would all mean for him decades from now. It tortured Oscar and his wife, Jessica, to know how close he’d come to escaping it.
They’d been at the school on Tuesday morning to watch Noah win an award for art and music, sitting in the front row for the assembly. They felt so proud.
Noah was a quiet kid. He spent much of his time playing Mario and Pokémon games on his Nintendo Switch. For his birthday earlier this month, the family drove him to San Antonio to go bowling and pick out Pokémon cards. His parents had seen glimpses of him growing up, though. He’d started ordering steak for dinner, medium-rare, just like his dad. And he wanted to become a dental hygienist, just like his mom, when he grew up.
Now here he was, receiving an award.
His parents told him to smile for a photo, but Noah didn’t like to smile for photos, so he held the certificate up to his nose. His dad laughed and told him to put it down. Finally they coaxed a grin. They also took a photo of Noah with his friends, and later, his dad would fear that his son was the only child in the image who survived.
“First, he shot his father. Then he came to the school … and Miss Fredericks, our, umm, what’s” — she paused, looking at her grandmother, Sandra McAdams, for help, until the word came to her — “principal. She came on the announcement saying to get in the bathroom, and we got in the bathroom. It was when I was in 4K.”
Ava, who’d run away when the shooting started, suffered from crippling post-traumatic stress in its aftermath. She was prescribed antipsychotics and antidepressants and began hitting herself and yanking out her eyelashes. Her parents withdrew her from school.
On Tuesday evening, she was sitting on her living room couch, watching funny cat videos on TikTok. Then a different kind of video popped up. It showed that more than a dozen children had been shot dead at an elementary school in Texas.
She started screaming, and her mother rushed into the room.