When shots rang out at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday, 9-year-old Daniel Garza said his teacher, Elsa Avila, ran to the door to lock their classroom, which was near rooms where 19 students and two teachers were killed.
Avila was shot through the glass and fell to the ground, Daniel told ABC News, but she still told her students to shut up and said she was playing dead. A student in the class was also injured when the shooter fired through the door.
Daniel said he hid under a table next to a wall with classmates. Daniel and his terrified peers remained silent, listening to the gunshots and the gunman knocking on the next door.
“I personally can’t thank my son’s teacher enough,” Daniel’s mother, Briana Ruiz, told ABC News. “I think what she did saved all of their lives.”
Although Daniel survived, he lost his beloved cousin, Ellie Garcia, who was in a nearby classroom and among the 19 children killed in the massacre.
“I was very worried about her because I didn’t hear any screaming in the classroom,” he said.
Although her son suffered mental trauma as a result of the massacre, Ruiz said the 9-year-old insisted on speaking to reporters to distract the gunman and focus it on the victims.
“That’s why I agreed to let him do this. If he feels it’s going to help him, I’m okay with that, because I want him to recover,” she said. said.
Since the shooting, Ruiz said his son wouldn’t come into his room and had stopped playing video games.
“When I ask him why he doesn’t want to play, he says, ‘I don’t want to hear gunshots.’ We don’t watch cable – any mention of a shot triggers it,” she said. “It’s something they’re going to have to live with forever and it’s going to be difficult.”
Ruiz said the shooter was a former student of hers, when she was a teaching assistant.
As for Daniel’s feelings about the shooter: “I’m mad at him. I play football with a lot of these guys and they haven’t got away with it.”
ABC News’ Marcus Moore contributed to this report.