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2022 Notebook: Another year of mass shootings in the U.S.


By The Associated Press

THE BACKGROUND: Mass shootings have become part of every year’s news, and 2022 was no exception. In May, a man targeted Black shoppers at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, killing ten people and injuring three in one of the deadliest racial massacres in recent U.S. history.

Then, just days later, 19 elementary school children and two adults were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde County. Americans watched in horror as gunmen also targeted parades, department stores and a gay nightclub.

Here, two AP reporters who covered the Uvalde attack share their experiences. Acacia Coronado had just started working for the AP, and it was her first time covering a mass shooting on the ground. Jim Vertuno, a 26-year AP veteran, has covered at least five.


On the situation on the ground, and how to act as a reporter and also a human being in that situation:


It was a very eerie night. It was completely silent. Everywhere in the town, the whole town was completely silent. And anywhere we stopped, there was people asking us to find information. We stood around out there for hours, with family members with people who had been there to support their loved ones. I think the detail that will stick with all of us the longest: There was this silence that would only be broken every time a family would find out. And it was silent and then screams and silent and then screams. There were agents who were crying. There were reporters crying. It was one of the saddest scenes I’ve ever seen in my life. And there were no answers.


I remember a man walking through the parking lot. Just speaking into his phone over and over again, this sobbing in his phone saying, “She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone.” And then there was a woman. I could see her standing by herself with this cell phone her and she was screaming into the phone and saying handing her feet and just kind of just raging into the night. And something about that moment told me to step back. I was not personally going to approach them in their moment of terrible, terrible grief.


I know we made the decision not to bother parents on that night. We made the decision not to ask questions of direct family members, unless they openly welcomed us into that moment with them. And we made a lot of gut decisions in that night and in that moment, and who we chose to approach and what questions we chose to ask. And I don’t know that we did it perfectly, or that we did it well. But I think it just came down to doing what our hearts told us to do.


On learning from experience from previous mass shootings:


The experience of having done it kind of works for and against you at the same time. You learn through some experience on hopefully how to talk and listen to families. So you kind of lean into that experience. But that same experience also ties you up even worse, because you know the trauma you’re going into. So it’s this delicate balance. You have to go in and tell the story of what’s happening, you can’t let yourself be frozen by the emotion. It’s what we’re there to do.


On the gaps in the timeline, and why it was important to expose them:


I didn’t think originally that the missing chunks of information were a red flag until we started seeing that some of those pieces were false. Or they were being backtracked by officials. And I think we realized that that was going to be a very big part of the story. It became a very unique situation in which we could not take for granted the information we were receiving from officials. And so we began asking more and more questions out of fairness and respect to the families and to the public.

Once we understood that it had been 77 minutes before the shooter was confronted by authorities and asking the question of why and what could have changed and what could have been different if the response had been different. Communities deserve to know how that happened, why that happened, and what can be done differently in the future, to prevent a situation like this from happening again.


It’s the reaffirmation of why it’s important that what we do, because it was the media’s presence there, and the media’s willingness to listen to the families, that exposed that what we were hearing on the official accounts wasn’t true. It forced the change in the narrative and forced the change in the conversation, to turn a critical eye over to police response and just how they did things. I give a lot of credit to the families who had the courage to stand up to that narrative.

I hope we’re going to see at least some reevaluation among law enforcement on how they respond, and how they should respond.


On how journalists can prepare to cover the next shooting:


I think this has become something that you have to prepare for as a journalist. I know now that is something that realistically I will have to cover again. And I know now that in the moment, there are decisions that I was comfortable with and decisions that I have thought back to that give me nightmares that that are going to haunt me that I’ve tried to apologize for. There are moments that I wish I would have asked better questions. There are moments that I wish I would not have asked questions. And I think all we can really do is take those things that are gonna weigh on us, in our hearts, following something so tragic. And the next time that it happens do better.


Everything tells you it’s going to happen again. And if it does, I just hope that I can get through it the same way. I don’t know, I don’t have an answer for that. I don’t know how to move forward. Because the idea is I just kind of keep doing my job. And if the phone rings again, we’ll go down there or wherever it will be and hopefully I’ll lean on my experience on how to deal with families and trauma. I don’t know what the answer is. We go forward. We just keep doing it and hope it’s never going to happen again.


2022 Notebooks:

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