Finding Strength In Struggle: The Aftermath of Uvalde

Guest Contributor

July 13, 2022

By Giovanna Treglio, Guest Contributor

Every time we watch the news it seems as though there is another mass shooting. It is becoming so frequent, that we have become numb to the horror. Afterward, you are expected to go back to what you were doing and familiar thoughts run through your mind.

You throw your hands up and say “no one is going to do anything about it.” 

You reassure yourself that it wasn’t and can’t happen close by.

You remind yourself that you didn’t know anyone involved. 

That changed for me on May 24, 2022.

Uvalde, Texas, is a place virtually no one outside of the state had ever heard of prior to this spring. It is a sleepy Texas town with significant history. It was a stop on the trail out west, produced a few famous people, and was home to a former vice president. 

A quiet town close to the Mexican border, Uvalde is  a place where families pride themselves on their barbecue. Parents and fans go crazy for their high school, college, and professional football teams. It’s a close knit unit of families, a place that encourages their kids to follow their dreams, and a town with as much character and integrity, as any other town in the country.

What happened to this community was unspeakable, but what’s left behind is a town that’s become stronger than ever.

In Uvalde, everyone knows everyone. My husband and I lived just outside Uvalde for nearly 10 years. In that time, we came to know and spend plenty of time in Uvalde and its surrounding areas. It was easy to get acquainted with its residents because of how welcoming the community is. 

On the morning of May 24th, my husband and I – now relocated to Arizona – watched in horror as the small town we knew and loved had this horror thrust upon it.

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A school full of kids? We know those families.

As the day went on, the news only got worse. Our hearts were breaking for our friends as the number of dead and injured continued to rise. We were so far away, powerless to do anything. All we could hope for was news that the numbers were wrong and maybe it was just from violence at the border and not actually a school shooting. 

The devastating feeling of our friends not seeing their kids ever again set in. We hoped our friends would reunite with their kids, and family members employed at the school would be all right. From far away, you can feel your faith in humanity slowly draining away. We realized we had to take this feeling of helplessness in hand. We realized by the end of the day we had to go.

We connected with a veterans organization, Flanders Fields. They had reached out to one of our good friends in Uvalde and were going to provide help in any way they could to the residents of Uvalde. It was by dumb luck that we connected with them. When they aren’t supporting vets in their mental health and sobriety, they make people and really difficult situations their mission.

We packed up the car and made the drive to Uvalde. When we got to Texas a day later, we had arrived in a Uvalde we did not recognize. The place was buzzing. The streets were flooded with more traffic than we’d ever experienced during rush hour. More media outlets than ever had arrived  and made themselves at home, determined to tell this story from every possible angle. They descended like vultures into a town that was not prepared for them. A town that had just lost 19 treasured neighbors in one day – mostly small children – was overrun with people who had to tell a story. They were “just” doing their jobs, while the community was trying to mourn. 

But this community is strong, and it rallied to support one another. The streets were lined with memorials and people giving out food, water, and other comforts. This went on for days. There were so many fundraisers that started immediately. There were kids with lemonade stands raising money for those affected by the shooting. The line to place flowers on the memorial at Robb Elementary, made up of people from all over Texas, was over two hours long every day. 

People were coming from all over Texas and all over the country to support Texans. They were supporting them with food, services, donations, and gifts. No one was worried about politics or opinions. They were all just there to help in the healing. 

The goodwill of so many people in one place was incredible to witness. The strength of the city and its people was visible in the way that they came together to support one another. People were putting their lives on hold to support complete strangers. 

In the little time we had, we were given the honor of meeting with many families and other individuals impacted by the senseless violence. They allowed complete strangers to come and just be with them. They gave us the gift of allowing us to share in their grief. To help hold some of the endless pain. They allowed me to turn my helplessness and hopelessness into support.

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They allowed me to be useful when it felt like nothing I did mattered anymore. Yes, we were there in support of them, but they undoubtedly gave us more, by accepting our presence and allowing us to support them. That is what it is all about. Being able to care and connect with others in times that seem more inhumane than ever. Seeking the light in others, when it seems like there may be only darkness. Uvalde, Texas, and its people reminded me how much good can still be found in this world. It reminded me how many of us actually care about strangers and their suffering. It reminded me to just keep looking for the good because it can be found.

May 24 left a mark on this city that will last for generations to come. As strong as this community is, and as it fades from the media spotlight, it will need help in the long run.

It is easy for most to look at Uvalde and focus on the negative, the should-haves, would-haves, could-haves. There will be Monday morning quarterbacks and internet trolls. However, I implore you to look for the strength, love, trust, goodwill, and action that was taken by this city, for this city, and its people. It’s easy to focus on the negative in this world right now, but we need to start finding the good because it is there. 

And Uvalde is the best example of what the good looks like.

Gia Treglio currently serves her local community as a Licensed Mental and Behavioral Health Professional and has recently taken a role as an Adjunct Professor of Psychology. She received her M.A. Ed.S in Professional Counseling from Seton Hall University, while her early professional career was spent working with military members and their families as an Education and Goal Counselor. She has had the honor to work in private practice and feels as though her greatest accomplishments have come while working in community mental health.