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At This Hour

Vigil Honors 21 Victims Of Texas School Shooting; Video Captures Frustration Parents Felt With Police Response; Talking To Kids About The Texas School Massacre; Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 26, 2022 - 11:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, I'm John Berman live in Uvalde, Texas. We are learning more about the 19 young children and two teachers murdered here at the Robb Elementary School, most of them, nine and 10 years old. This tight small town gathered last night for a vigil to honor the victims, many holding on to pictures of the young lives that were lost in this massacre.

We're also learning heartbreaking accounts of the desperation the parents felt as they rushed into the school. One father named Javier Cazares told The Washington Post that he wanted to storm the building to stop the carnage that lasted, we believe, for nearly an hour.

Joining me now is Doug Swimmer. He is the pastor of The Potter's House Church here in Uvalde. Like all of us, you know, you watched this take place, you saw this happen and you went to minister to some of the people. Tell me what you did.

DOUG SWIMMER, PASTOR, THE POTTER'S HOUSE CHURCH OF UVALDE: We went -- I went -- I went home. My wife was watching the live feed on her iPad, she says you see what's going on and I -- and I -- I'm -- not have any idea. And as I watched, she looked at me, she says you need to head to the hospital right now because at that time they were directing to -- the parents to the hospital.

And as I left my apartment and headed that way, got to the second floor of the hospital and that's where I encountered the parents that have now that I -- information that had been passed to me that have -- that have -- they've lost some of their children. And that's my first encounter that day.

BERMAN: And that's awful.


BERMAN: It's awful for them. And it's hard for you. I know.


BERMAN: What did they need from you at that moment? SWIMMER: At that moment, I walked in, I announced myself, who I was, pastor of the Potter's House, and I said who needs prayer? And an outcry says we all need prayer.


SWIMMER: And about 60 to 70 people just corralled around me, I lifted my voice and I prayed as loud as I could through that hospital for these families, for these moms, for these dads, for these families that will never see their children again. And a -- and as a pastor, that was the worst day of my life. And today, as I woke up, and I'm driving to the church, and the sun is rising, I felt my spirit God speak to me and say my mercies are renewed every day.

And today, we're just praying for God's mercy and God's grace and His love for this community and for the families and those that have lost and those that are dealing with the tragedy of this, those students that still have to wake up every day, the loss of friends, the loss of a teacher -- the teachers, and the, you know, the devastation that we have to continue to live with, in these moments and in these hours. These are the longest days of our lives here in Uvalde.

BERMAN: And they need you more than ever.


BERMAN: They need you more than ever.

SWIMMER: Yes. And our church is open, I'm going to -- I'm going to do something very bold. Right now, I'm going to give my number to anybody in the community that needs it. My number is 830-279-2712. And this is for the community. I don't need everyone around the nation to call me. I want the community to know that I'm here for them, our church is open, and whatever they need for me, I'm here 24/7, I'm available, they can call me night and day, I will get up move my -- I will do whatever I can for this community because I love this community. And we are -- we are forever grateful for everybody that has come out and helped us here.

BERMAN: If they need a hand to hold on to, a shoulder to cry on.


BERMAN: You're the man you're here for them.

SWIMMER: Thank you.

BERMAN: You're here for them. I know how hard this is on you.


BERMAN: And I'm so grateful to you for being here for everybody.

SWIMMER: Thank you.

BERMAN: Pastor, thank you. SWIMMER: Thank you.

BERMAN: So, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District has created a memorial fund to help the families of the victims here at the Robb elementary school. You can find information about how to donate to the fund at

Coming up. Secretary of State Tony Blinken just wrapped up a big speech on China. We'll tell you the Biden administration strategy -- the new strategy to deal with Beijing next.



BERMAN: All right, welcome back. CNN has just obtained a video of parents of children at the Robb Elementary School who were here during the shooting, in the aftermath. You can see their frustration as they are here trying to get in as this is still going on. This video is again from Tuesday while this is all unfolding. I want to warn you that the video you're about to see, it is raw and it is difficult to watch. Here it is.




BERMAN: All right. Joining me now is CNN's Shimon Prokupecz. Shimon, I want to be clear about something. We don't know exactly where in the timeline this fits.


BERMAN: However, what this does show us is something we have been hearing about. The parents were on the scene in despair, but also it does seem in frustration that they could not get inside to help their children.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and this is -- you know, it's just so hard to watch, the screams and to listen to these parents and now we -- you know, knowing what we know what happened in there. I just can't imagine what these people were going through in those moments. You know, we have seen reports that there were parents who were on scene, hearing gunshots, I mean, and knowing that their kids were inside and they couldn't go in and do anything.

But as to the video, it does appear though in that video that the police response is already there. There's a heavier police response. We're seeing Sheriffs, Deputies, we're seeing other officers with heavily armed weaponry, right? It's what you would see in a kind of a situation like this. But like you said, John, we don't know how -- what time this was taken and how far into the incident this was taken. But it's clear that it was still a very active scene that there was still dealing -- the police were still dealing with the situation. And I was talking to some city officials this morning about this and they said that when a lot of the family members got here, they were -- just they just wanted answers. They wanted to know what was going on. And no one could provide answers for them. And I'm just recalling that day and how long it took for the information to get out about what happened here. And these parents just went on for hours, John.


PROKUPECZ: Remember, they went to the civic center where they were waiting to get notified about their kids if their kids were one of the victims. And the hours and into the night that this went on. It's just -- it's gut-wrenching. It's just so hard to watch and so painful. And again, you know, we are still waiting for so many answers here from the police.

BERMAN: What you can see is the sense of helplessness that these parents have, parents who'd be willing to do anything. I guarantee you, willing to do anything, to put themselves in the way of a shooter for their children right there. We don't know when this is, but, Shimon, what we do know -- but we do know is there was a period of time, how long is unclear, but a period of time when law enforcement was on the scene in some number and they were not going in to confront the shooter. And that's the period where they're still unanswered questions.

PRPOKUPECZ: Right. That is that period, that hour or so when the gunman is inside. There are still gunshots coming from there. There's an exchange of gunfire. What's not really clear is, you know, the lieutenant told you this morning that those two officers were shot as they were either going into the school or by the door.

BERMAN: It made it sound like it was inside.

PROKUPECZ: Like -- yes. To me, it certainly sounds like it was -- you know, how badly were these officers injured? You know, they retreated, it seems. They just -- and we don't know the severity of their injuries. He did say they're non-life-threatening, how were they shot, what was the situation here? But, you know, where were the backup officers, and why weren't more officers in there already on the scene? You know, it's a small town, small police department, I get all that. But those questions need to be answered.

BERMAN: Yes. And there are answers. There will be answers to these questions. When we hear them and how complete we will be given? Still remains to be seen.


BERMAN: Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much for your help and understanding of what we're seeing here as it unfolds. Kate, let's go back to you in New York.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: John, thank you so much for how you handled that. Thank you very much. We're going to continue, obviously, to follow that. And as John and Shimon were talking about, there are huge questions still surrounding this horrific tragedy at Robb Elementary School, people across the country are heartbroken watching this play out at another school in another American city. And with that heartbreak comes tough questions, one of them being how do you talk about this with kids, as millions of them are walking into their classrooms again today?

Joining me right now for some -- for some more answers on this is Dr. Jamie Howard. She's a senior clinical psychologist and director of the Trauma and Resilience Center at the Child Mind Institute. Thank you for being here to -- people are searching for answers. This is a tough conversation and a lot of -- a lot of parents, caregivers -- you know we're going to want to avoid talking about it because it's hard.


BOLDUAN: But you say it's important, why?

HOWARD: It's really important. We want kids to learn about these big scary traumatic events from trusted loving adults, it can be so much scarier and more overwhelming to sort of, hear it from kids on the playground, to overhear it from the radio in the other room, and then they're prone to being even more overwhelmed and getting inaccurate information.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. This -- the conversation is obviously different depending on the age of a child.

HOWARD: Right.

BOLDUAN: How do you start the conversation? What's the approach?

HOWARD: Yes. So either way, what you want to do is say, I've been watching the news and I feel sad, or I've been hearing about this really sad story where kids were hurt and killed, tell me what do you know about it, what have you heard and then go from there. You sort of want to pace the conversation slowly and base it on what they already know and fill in missing pieces. And only give them as much information as they need, the bare minimum, and then let them ask for more rather than move at all times.


BOLDUAN: Have all -- that was always been something when it comes to tough conversations that I've found very helpful is the tendency, don't over -- don't over speak --

HOWARD: Right.

BOLDUAN: Say the bare minimum and wait to hear their questions, let them kind of lead it. I find that very helpful.

HOWARD: Yes, give a pause so they can sort of process it. And also keep an open line of communication because sometimes kids will need to go process this and then they'll say, well wait, now I have a few questions. So they can keep coming back. It's usually not a one-time conversation with these big things.

BOLDUAN: Doctor, how young is too young to talk about this?

HOWARD: I would say if you think that your kids might hear about this in school, that's when you should start to talk about it, so kindergarten and first grade.

BOLDUAN: And I think an important aspect of this is this is not the first time a lot of kids are hearing about this, especially older kids.

HOWARD: That's right.

BOLDUAN: This is time and again, that they have seen about or are aware of school shootings in America. This is why it's just additionally tragic is because this happens over and over again. These kids are eyes wide open, and they -- many of them see this as a very real threat to attending school in America today.

HOWARD: Right.

BOLDUAN: What do you talk about with them?

HOWARD: So what we try to do is emphasize that even though this should never ever happen, it's still a rare event. If you think about every school and every day of the year, it's much more likely that this will not happen to you. So we try to emphasize that it's uncommon, but that doesn't absolve us of the burden of making sure this never happens again. This is -- this is too much.

BOLDUAN: What about a child who you speak to them, they see -- they see and hear about this, and they say they're too scared to go to school?

HOWARD: So certainly you can empathize. And you want to say, you know, I understand you're scared, let's think about what we can do to keep ourselves safe, so sometimes pointing to the safety procedures in place. So for example, when I talked to my daughter, we talked about how in her school, they keep the doors locked, and all of the grownups who enter have to put their ID inside a scanner, and then they let the doors open.

And then you have to go to the office and get a pass. And so there's these stages along the way, meant to keep you safe. So pointing to those concrete examples can be really helpful for kids.

BOLDUAN: Parents are scared too.

HOWARD: Very much.

BOLDUAN: Sending their kids to school, going into school. And we also know and every parent knows this that kids read our energy. They're extremely in tune and sensitive to how we feel and what we're not saying.

HOWARD: Right. BOLDUAN: What do you say to -- what do you tell parents?

HOWARD: Right. I mean, I'm a parent, and I'm scared. And I'm so --

BOLDUAN: I know. I'm clearly projecting this.

HOWARD: Yes. And I mean, we too.

BOLDUAN: Because this is something that I'm struggling with too.

HOWARD: Right. Yes, we have -- we have strong feelings. When we're talking to our kids, we just want to try and keep the intensity sort of moderate because kids can become very overwhelmed when they're grown up and seem out of control. And when our emotions are really, really strong, it can be overwhelming for kids. So it's OK to see me sad if this is very sad. It's also OK to see me angry. It's just you want to keep it sort of under control.

BOLDUAN: Which -- what about crying in front of them? When you -- when I -- when I -- I mean, I got emotional yesterday, just speaking with -- speaking about this.

HOWARD: Yes, that's OK to cry, right? You can say I'm sad. I'm sad because these were innocent kids who shouldn't have died and they died and I feel sad for them and their families. But you just want to say it like that, right? Like you want to sort of, keep it like a normal intensity of sadness because then you're demonstrating it's normal to have these feelings and I can cope with them, right? So you're actually -- it's even more helpful in some ways.

BOLDUAN: And a hug at the beginning, middle, and end.

HOWARD: And a hug, that physical --

BOLDUAN: The physicality of it I think --

HOWARD: Yes, the physical touch.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

HOWARD: So they are connected to you.

BOLDUAN: Doctor, thank you very much, I really appreciate it.

HOWARD: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: So we do want to close the show today with the 19 children and two teachers who were murdered inside Robb Elementary to keep their faces and their names at the front of our minds is important. They deserve to be honored. Their families deserve to have their memories live on. They were loved by so many.





JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody, welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you. Thank you for sharing this difficult news day with us. We start in Uvalde, Texas where there is still no explanation -- no explanation for why the shooter who murdered 19 children and two teachers was inside Robb Elementary School for as long as 60 minutes. As long as 60 minutes before law enforcement took him out. This emotional new, simply awful video.