(WASHINGTON) — Amid new pressure for gun control on Capitol Hill, lawmakers on Wednesday heard dramatic testimony from a fourth grader trapped in a Texas classroom for more than an hour as a gunman killed 19 of her classmates and two of her teachers.
Miah Cerrillo emotionally described smearing herself with her classmate’s blood and playing dead as the Uvalde rampage unfolded, recounting the horror to the House Oversight Committee in a recorded video. Cerrillo was not in the room, as planned, when the video was played.
Cerrillo said she and the other students hid behind the teacher’s desk and their backpacks as the gunman shot out the window of their classroom and eventually entered.
She said the gunman “told my teacher goodnight and shot her in the head, and then he shot some of my classmates and the whiteboard.” Cerrillo then talked about putting the blood of a classmate on herself out of fear the gunman would return and also using her teacher’s phone to call 911.
Cerrillo said she didn’t feel safe at school. When asked on the video if she thinks it will happen again, she nodded yes.
Her father tearfully told lawmakers Wednesday something has to change.
“She is not the same little girl I used to play and run with,” he said.
The committee also heard from other families traumatized by the massacres in Uvalde and in Buffalo, New York, that killed a total of 31 people just 10 days apart.
Witnesses included Felix Rubio and Kimberly Rubio, the parents of Lexi Rubio, a 10-year-old girl killed in Uvalde; Zeneta Everhart, the mother of Buffalo shooting survivor Zaire Goodman, who was shot in the neck while working at the store; and Roy Guerrero, a Uvalde pediatrician who treated the victims.
Guerrero described in graphic detail treating the victims who arrived at Uvalde Memorial Hospital that day.
“Two children, whose bodies had been so pulverized by the bullets fired at them, decapitated, whose flesh had been so ripped apart, that the only clue as to their identities were the blood spattered cartoon clothes still clinging to them,” he said. “Clinging for life and finding none.”
Through tears, Kimberly Rubio talked about the last time she saw her daughter that morning. The family was at Robb Elementary School before the shooting to see Lexi receive a good citizen award and be recognized for being an A student.
“To celebrate, we promised to get her ice cream that evening,” Kimberly Rubio said. “We told her we loved her, and we would pick her up after school. I can still see her, walking with us toward the exit. In the reel that keeps scrolling across my memories, she turns her head and smiles back at us to acknowledge my promise. And then we left. I left my daughter at that school, and that decision will haunt me for the rest of my life.”
Committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., opened the hearing by asking her colleagues to “listen with an open heart to the brave witnesses who have come forward to tell their stories about how gun violence has impacted their lives.”
“Let us honor their courage,” she said. “And let us find the same courage to pass commonsense laws to protect our children.”
The hearing comes as negotiations continue on gun control. A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, are trying to reach a compromise this week on incremental measures like expanded background checks, incentives for states to implement red flag laws and funding for mental health programs.
Senate Democrats are looking for at least 10 Republican votes to get to the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster. If they don’t reach that mark, they risk continuing a 30-year trend of inaction on gun reform even in the wake of such tragedies as Sandy Hook, Las Vegas and Parkland.
Murphy provided an update on the talks during an appearance on The View on Tuesday, stating he’s never seen this much public pressure for elected officials to act and he’s hopeful Republicans are “picking up this sense of urgency.”
“While we are very different in our views, we do both agree that we are not willing to do anything that compromises people’s Second Amendment rights,” Murphy said. “We are focusing on keeping weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.”
President Joe Biden made an impassioned plea last week for more, including a ban on assault weapons like the AR-15 used in the Uvalde shooting, but most Republicans in Congress remain opposed to any gun restrictions.
Maloney said she feels there is a new air of urgency to get gun control legislation on Biden’s desk in light of the Uvalde mass shooting, and she’s hopeful Republicans will change their minds when they hear the witnesses speak firsthand.
“Absolutely, there’s a sense of urgency, and tomorrow we will be debating gun safety laws on the floor and voting. So, hopefully, their testimony will have an impact on the votes of these members of Congress,” Maloney told ABC News on Tuesday.
In a letter to Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the House will vote Wednesday afternoon on the Protect Our Kids Act, the gun control package assembled after the mass shootings in New York and Texas.
In all, 19 young children and two teachers were killed by a gunman wielding an AR-15-style assault weapon at Robb Elementary School on May 24. Funerals for the victims are continuing until June 25.
In Buffalo, 10 Black people were fatally shot in a Tops grocery store on May 14. The Department of Justice is investigating the shooting as a “hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism.”
The mother of Buffalo shooting survivor Zaire Goodman described Wednesday cleaning her son’s wounds as she called on Congress to do more.
“Shrapnel will be left inside of his body for the rest of his life,” she testified. “Now I want you to picture this exact scenario for one of your children. This should not be my life or yours.”
ABC News’ Rachel Scott and Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.
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