For veteran newsman John Quiñones, journalistic instinct led him to Uvalde, Texas, a year ago when a lone gunman took the lives of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary on May 24, 2022. It was compassion and a connection to the community, however, that kept him there for a year as a correspondent.
Since that unspeakably tragic day, Quiñones and a team of his ABC News colleagues have devoted their time to telling the stories of the victims and their families. In the news series Uvalde: 365, Quiñones and ABC News have been on the ground talking to parents, siblings, survivors, and citizens about the effects a single day has had on their small Texas town.
To document those stories over the last year, ABC News set up an office in Uvalde. And it’s something Quiñones said he had never experienced in his career when he spoke to Remezcla on Tuesday (May 23). It was evident to him that the network wanted to make a major commitment and capture the entire story.
“When we arrived, the story was so immense and heartbreaking, we just couldn’t cover it like any other story,” Quiñones told us. “We knew we couldn’t do the story justice unless we had a long-term presence there. We spent an entire year documenting life after the tragedy and slowly got to know and understand the families and the community.”
Some of the approximately four dozen stories ABC News covered for Uvalde: 365 in the last year include four mothers who are forever connected by the death of their daughters; a grieving sister who has become a gun safety advocate; and a teacher sharing the emotional scars he will carry with him for the rest of his life.
“When they realized that we were here for the long haul, they began opening up not only their homes to us, but their hearts,” Quiñones said. “Most importantly, we gained their trust. In the end, it’s a beautiful story of courage and strength. Of course, there’s pain and heartache, but what has also emerged is a story of resiliency – one that will stay with me and with the entire Uvalde 365 team forever.”
One of the members of Quiñones’ team is his 32-year-old son, Nicco, who is a cameraman on the news series. It was the first time Quiñones worked with his son on a project. He found the experience touching, but it also gave him perspective on how something like what happened at Uvalde could also happen to anyone.
“There were several times when I would be interviewing a grieving family and Nicco would be behind the camera,” he said. “I would realize it could have been my child – at his university or at the shopping mall or at church. It has really brought us together [and] made us even closer than we were before.”
Ultimately, Quiñones hopes that as a journalist covering Uvalde, he has demonstrated what it means to put your heart into your work and help a community find the peace they deserve.
“I see journalism as a candle in the darkness,” he said. “Those are the kinds of stories that we should be telling. I’ve been doing it for more than 40 years, and I still tear up when I see the good that comes from us shining that light.”