UVALDE, Texas — The school lockdowns across Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday didn’t strike many students as anything odd. In this small border town, they’re common as suspects try to evade authorities in high-speed chases.
“We just thought it was a normal Tuesday,” Victoria Phillips, a 17-year-old senior at Uvalde Classical Academy, told BuzzFeed News.
Of course, it wasn’t. The reason for the lockdowns quickly became clear: An armed 18-year-old had entered Robb Elementary in Uvalde, where he ended up fatally shooting 19 students and two adults.
The town’s mayor, Don McLaughlin, told Fox News host Tucker Carlson just days before the mass shooting that President Joe Biden’s border policy had been causing armed car chases that force local schools to lock down about once per week.
But Felicity Fry, also a 17-year-old senior at Uvalde Classical Academy, estimated it’s probably closer to twice per week. She described it as “shelter in place,” where no one is allowed out of the building.
“I think, sadly, it’s become normal,” she said. “No one realizes the severity of the situation. Like, we’re having another lockdown, this is just so normal.”
Larri Ann Wright, head of school for Uvalde Classical Academy, confirmed that the campus has "endured multiple campus lockdowns each month."
"In fact, when we initially went on lockdown Tuesday, many of our high school students assumed it was due to yet another bailout issue," Wright said. "Our southern border crisis has greatly affected all of us."
Peyton Phillips, also 17, said she figured the lockdown on Tuesday was related to issues related to the border, which is about 130 miles away. “[It] is still scary, but you just become used to it,” she said.
“We’re numb to it pretty much,” sister Victoria Phillips added.
Peyton said she feels safe at school, but at home, it’s different. There are often high-speed police chases that go down her “little street,” while helicopters hover over.
“I think everyone in south Texas has felt unsafe or anxious because of the chaos that comes with the border crisis,” she said. “But obviously the Robb Elementary shooting had nothing to do with the border crisis.”
The Phillips sisters, Fry, and Haddee Webb, a 15-year-old sophomore, were more than prepared for that kind of danger. But they never suspected Uvalde to be at the center of one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
The four girls were at Wednesday night’s memorial at Uvalde County Fairplex to mourn those who were killed on Tuesday. They said Uvalde is a tight-knit community, so they either know someone who was affected by the shooting or know someone who has a child who goes to Robb Elementary. Peyton said the community “will never be the same” and is worried about the survivors who witnessed the attack.
“I think we were super hopeful at the beginning,” she said. “You hear these numbers and you’re just praying that it’s not true. That doesn’t happen here. It’s like, no, stories are getting confused. That’s how rumors start. That’s not normal.
“It’s hard because you don’t really know how to comfort someone going through that type of trauma or loss. They were babies. Precious lives. Innocent. It’s just horrific to think somebody could ever do that.”