Injured 4th-grader Miah Cerrillo was on the phone with a 911 operator when a burst of gunfire came from the shooter at Robb Elementary School.
“He’s shooting,” she says simply at 12:21 p.m.
“Stay quiet, make sure everybody stays quiet,” she is told by the operator.
It will be 29 more minutes before officers challenge the shooter and kill him.
By then, armed responders were stacked up outside the connecting classrooms 111 and 112, where they waited and talked and checked equipment and looked for tools until a team finally entered the rooms and killed the gunman.
Throughout the call, Miah and her classmate Khloie Torres – both of whom survive – ask for officers to be sent to help save them from the massacre that killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas.
They did not know a total of 376 officers from 23 local, state and federal agencies were responding, many then just feet away from them, their injured friends and teachers. At least one child and one teacher survived the initial attack but died later.
And now, Miah’s parents Abigale Veloz and Miguel Cerrillo want all those officers to hear the call from their daughter, who had been injured by flying shrapnel in her shoulders and head.
“If children are calling and saying that they’re hurt or in the classroom, that shows you that they are really cowards,” Cerrillo said of the responding officers.
“All the officers who were there should hear this audio so they can understand what the hell the kids are going through, and these suckers are just outside.”
The chaotic, prolonged response on May 24 has been decried as a failure for months. But full details of what happened and when are still being withheld and Texas’s top cop did not provide an update as expected at a public meeting last week. Instead, Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, listened to family members’ anger and acknowledged some mistakes, before saying his officers “did not fail the community” of Uvalde.
Understanding their daughter’s ordeal
Miah’s parents reached out to CNN after we ran a story Tuesday on Miah’s classmate Khloie calling 911 and giving details of the dead and injured in Classroom 112 some 40 minutes before officers finally burst into the room to stop the gunman and get victims out.
Khloie’s father Ruben Torres, praised his daughter’s actions and again contrasted them with the inaction of the officers after he heard the 911 call. “That day, the things that she did were absolutely incredible,” he said of his daughter. Of the adults who responded, he said: “None of them had courage that day.”
CNN obtained the audio of the 18-minute 911 call from a source and is using it with the approval of the parents of Khloie and Miah. It’s the call that should have ended any doubt or hesitation that the teenage gunman was active, roaming between the two connected classrooms, that children were trapped, injured and needed to be saved.
Wednesday was the first time Miah’s parents had heard the call and they said it helped them to understand more of what Miah had told them about that day and what she had gone through.
They could hear her trying to help her teacher Eva Mireles, who had been shot and later died, while also giving their room number to Khloie, who was fairly new to Uvalde and the school. And when Khloie relays the operator’s directive for them to all keep quiet, Miah tries to hush her panicked and injured fellow fourth graders.
And then they hear her come on the line, taking over from Khloie, with the same clear and polite requests.
“Hi, can you please send help?” Miah asks at 12:19 p.m., 46 minutes since the shooter was seen entering the room but still more than 30 minutes from when he was stopped.
“Are they in the building?” she asks repeatedly about the law enforcement response. Her mother said Miah believed officers were still trying to find a way to get close to them, never imagining that they were stacked up on the other side of the door, just feet away.
Her family has tried to shield her from learning more about the failed response, but last month she found some of the body camera video online showing the distraction, delay and lack of communication.
“She was so mad,” Veloz said of Miah when she found out. “She couldn’t believe that they were right there.”
After the massacre
Miah was able to tell CNN days later how she smeared blood on herself and played dead in the hope the gunman would leave her alone if he came back from the adjoining classroom. She even testified to the US Congress, sending a video message to a House committee investigating gun violence when she said what she wished for was “to have security.”
These days, Miah finds it hard to open up to strangers, her mom said. The only people she trusts are family.
Her parents said hearing her on the 911 call gave them “a picture in our heads” of what she had been telling them.
“Now we understand why she doesn’t want to go anywhere,” Veloz said.
They are still finding bullet fragments embedded in her back, and the emotional toll is almost as visible.
“She’s not Miah anymore,” her mother said simply, remembering how her middle child used to love playing pranks with her siblings and is now afraid of any loud noise.
It’s Miah’s birthday this week. She will be 12 on Friday. And her birthday wish, her mother said, is to be quiet, and get out of Uvalde for the day.