She has become, writes John Woodrow Cox in the Washington Post, the "most public survivor" of the Uvalde school shooting that took the lives of 19 of her classmates and two of her teachers. Cox describes 10-year-old Caitlyne Gonzales as "a portrait of resilience, a 4-foot-8, 75-pound embodiment of the maroon 'Uvalde Strong' flags flying all over Texas." That public persona arose after Caitlyne began speaking at rallies, before the school board, and even to senators in DC about how police failed her and her friends that day. But as Cox's wrenching story makes clear, in private, Caitlyne remains traumatized. The girl she was before the shooting has been replaced by "a uniquely American amalgam, a child who didn’t know how to ride a bike without training wheels but did know about ballistic windows and bulletproof backpacks and the movement to ban assault weapons."
Cox recounts how Caitlyne had to cover the mouth of a classmate who could not calm down during the shooting, how she heard her best friend Jackie scream before her death in the classroom across the hall, how she feels compelled to visit the cemetery, how she can't bear to be separated from her mother, how she has tantrums, and how the family is struggling to get her into therapy. Cox offers a powerful example of Caitlyne's new normal: While visiting Jackie's grave on her late friend's birthday, Caitlyne received a FaceTime call from another friend, Mayah Zamora, who was calling from her hospital room while recuperating from bullet wounds. "When Caitlyne told her where she was, Mayah asked if she could sing 'Happy Birthday' to Jackie, so Caitlyne held her phone out over the grave." (We recommend you read the full story.)