(NEW YORK) — Seven months after she was working at a Texas elementary school the day a shooter killed 19 students and two teachers, Emilia “Amy” Marin sat down one Tuesday afternoon to read dozens of letters that had arrived from all over the country.
“I saw your story,” one said, “and knew immediately I needed to reach out.”
“You are an inspiration to me for finding your voice, speaking out with the truth,” read another. “I know you will recover.”
Marin was the school employee initially blamed for propping open the door at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that allowed the killer to enter. The accusation was wrong.
In October, Marin told her story to ABC News in a report that led to a showering of sympathy that has not stopped. During that interview with ABC News correspondent John Quiñones, Marin’s body shook with tremors, a symptom of the emotional distress doctors and therapists blame on the psychological aftermath of the mass shooting. She spoke with a stutter, suffering from anxiety and depression.
In recent days, Marin again spoke of her struggle but said she is recuperating thanks to support and therapy, including treatment sessions with a therapy dog.
“I tell myself that I have to be strong and I have to stay positive and think positive,” Marin told ABC News.
In the days following the school shooting, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety said an unnamed “teacher” had used a rock to prop open a Robb Elementary School back door, and it was through that opening the shooter entered the building on May 24 and began his rampage.
Marin said she was stunned by the announcement, which she knew to be incorrect. People in the grieving community began connecting the story to her, and she said she felt wrongly vilified. Finally, her attorney publicly confirmed she was the person being singled out, and forcefully declared that the assertion was false, challenging the DPS.
DPS officials retracted the assertion soon afterward, admitting that the woman had, in fact, closed the door. Video obtained by ABC News later clearly showed Marin kicked out the rock and tried to make sure the exterior door was shut.
DPS spokesman Travis Considine said, “DPS corrected this error in public announcements and testimony and apologizes to the teacher and her family for the additional grief this has caused to an already horrific situation.” And he stressed that Marin’s name was not publicly released by his agency.
Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw apologized for the error in testimony before the state’s Public Safety Commission in October.
“At the time, that’s exactly the information that we had,” McCraw said. “It was wrong. I take responsibility for it.”
In the months since the shooting, Marin said it had been too painful to travel the short distance to Robb Elementary because, she said, it felt like a part of her died with the victims that day.
But a few days ago, that changed. With her daughter by her side, their arms linked tightly, Marin asked ABC News to accompany her as she walked back to the front gates of the elementary school, and made an impassioned plea to what she described as the part of her still emotionally locked inside the site of one of the worst school massacres in America’s long, blood-soaked history of mass shootings. She clutched the fence, shaking and crying.
“I want to tell myself I am here. Get out! I am coming back for myself. I want me to get out of there,” she yelled, pointing toward the classroom she was in on May 24.
As her daughter embraced her, Marin said she could hear the gunshots in her head. And moments later, as a helicopter flew overhead, Marin squeezed her eyes shut and instinctively, her daughter placed her hands over her mother’s ears in an effort to calm her. Loud noises continue to trigger Marin’s post-traumatic stress.
As Marin seeks to find her voice again and continues to gain strength, she told ABC News she plans to join other families of the victims in Uvalde and fight for justice. And when struggles arise, she said that’s when she looks back on letters sent to her from around the country.
“I am a retired teacher of 43 years,” one writer offered. “I can put myself in your place to not let this destroy your health and future happiness. Stand tall and be proud. What a role model you are.”
Now, Marin said, she won’t stop until a light is shined on what went wrong at Robb last May, the bungled police response, the failure to act quickly to try to save the injured and dying. And, she said, she prays for the victims of Uvalde every night.
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