Chicago — After the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Latinos in the community are grappling with the enduring toll on its mental health.
That includes Guadalupe Leija, who’s 8-year-old son, Samuel, was in a different building than the one a gunman came in and killed 19 children and two teachers. According to NBC News, Leija said Samuel “has not asked about what happened or what’s happening” despite being “the type of kid that wants to know everything.”
Myrta Garcia, CEO of South Texas Rural Health Services, said it's possible that Leija’s son and other children who survived the shooting are in a state of shock and may not be able to articulate the experience for some time.
"What they saw was not normal. What they heard was not normal," she said. "This is where we have to literally wrap our arms around them, pray for them, give them services, encourage them, love them."
As for parents who lost a child in the shooting, the road ahead will be just as difficult, as they contend with a variety of emotions, Garcia added.
“Right now, they're feeling grief, but they're going to feel anger soon," said Garcia. "They're going to feel anger because of what happened. They’re going to feel short changed that their child died. We won't be able to give them an answer because we don't know the answer, but we can teach them coping skills so they can better understand what happened.”
As Samuel comes to unpack what he faced, Leija said he and his wife have been preparing for the time their son can speak about what he experienced.
“Whenever the time comes, we’ll be ready for it,” he said. “It’s going to be a while before everything gets back to normal. ... It is going to be a long while.”