When fourth grade teacher Nicole Ogburn arrived for work last Tuesday, the school day started like any other – taking roll call and rounding up her young students for a morning assembly.
But by the time midday recess approached at Robb Elementary, Ogburn found herself facing a teacher’s worst nightmare and would later realize it would be a day she – and her students – will never forget.
Speaking to DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview one week after lone gunman Salvador Ramos opened fire at the school in Uvalde, Texas, the schoolteacher recounted the tragic turn of events that forever changed the lives of the community in just a matter of minutes.
The 44-year-old spent nearly 80 minutes cowering in the corner of her classroom with her fourth-graders – all aged nine or ten – whimpering and praying that they were not next in the firing line.
Moments before the massacre unfolded, Ogburn said, she and her students were only a few hours into the school day and had just returned to their classroom following an awards assembly.
Fourth-grade teacher Nicole Ogburn has described the tragic turn of events at Robb Elementary School last Tuesday that forever changed the lives of the community in just a matter of minutes
Heartbreaking photos revealed how young school children were forced to flee through a broken window to get to safety after an 18-year-old gunman opened fire at the school
Ramos is believed to have entered through an unlocked side door. Ogburn said her classroom would have been one of the first Ramos would’ve encountered from the outside
‘I put on a Disney movie, turned off the lights, and shut the blinds. A few minutes into the movie, several girls in my class asked to go outside early for their noon recess,’ she said.
By that time, however, it was only 11:21am, and too early to let the students out for lunch, so she asked the students to wait at least 15 to 20 minutes more.
It was also a sweltering hot day, and she didn’t ‘want to be out in the heat for any longer than was necessary,’ she admitted.
But unknown to Ogburn, there was already something more sinister to fear outdoors. Around that time, Ramos, 18, was already approaching the school armed with two rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. He had already shot his grandmother in the face at their home.
Just minutes before the deranged gunman entered and embarked on his killing spree, a teacher, according to Texas Department of Public Safety, propped open a side exit door near Ogburn’s classroom at 11:27am.
Ogburn said the west door, from which the shooter would eventually gain entry, is supposed to remained locked at all times but the exit is often used by faculty members when they need to make a quick run outdoors.
‘It’s a locked door,’ but, she explained, ‘It’s not uncommon for someone to use a rock and put inside the doorframe so the door can’t shut all of the way, when they run out to their car to get something.’
She said the door can only be locked from the inside, so if someone goes out of it, they have to keep it ajar and reach inside to turn the key.
This is how the shooting played out over the course of nearly two hours from when gunman Salvador Ramos shot his grandmother at home
Authorities say Ramos began shooting at the building as he approached. Bullet holes are seen in the window of a classroom
In this aerial view, law enforcement works on scene at Robb Elementary School where at least 21 people were killed yesterday
This tedious process, she said, is why several of faculty members instead opt for using a rock to temporarily keep the door ajar and prevent it from closing.
That day, Ogburn said, the staff member, who she declined to name, had gone out to retrieve a cellphone from her car which was ‘just outside the door.’
Ogburn said she was told the employee, during her quick foray outside, had spotted the gunman shooting toward a funeral home across the street and then approaching the fence onto school property.
‘She ran back inside the same door she came out of in fear for her life. She must have panicked,’ she said.
Salvador Ramos, 18, barricaded himself in a classroom and killed 19 kids and two teachers before being shot dead by police
‘I’m sure she was in fear of her life. Or the door may have had sort of malfunction. I know this employee and she would have never left the door open. She cares about those students, all of us care about those students.’
Ogburn admitted that at that time she doesn’t know if the rock was still in the doorframe propping the door open or if the door hadn’t shut properly from the force the teacher opened it with.
She believes that by the time the teacher had made her way back inside the school the shooter had made his way into the actual building.
From that entry point, her classroom would have been one of the first Ramos encountered from the outside, almost directly in the line of fire, the teacher explained.
Meanwhile, inside, the students still sitting on the floor watching a movie, were unaware of what was about to transpire, until they suddenly heard what Ogburn described sounded like a shovel hitting the building.
In hindsight, she believes the noise could have been the shooter trying to unsuccessfully force his way into the building through the south side entrance.
The 18-year-old shooter, armed with two rifles and ammunition, drove his grandmother’s black Ford F-150 pickup truck to the school just before noon, where he crashed into a culvert before continuing his deadly rampage
The scene where the shooter crashed a truck, with damage to the street and drainage ditch still visible
One video at the scene appears to show Ramos approach the school while what sounds like gunfire is going off in the background. Police exchanged gunfire with Ramos but were unable to stop him from storming the school
It was then that Ogburn went over to the window to what was happening, only to be confronted with her worst fear.
‘I saw a silhouette of the gunman through the window. I couldn’t see his facial features, but he had dark hair, and dark clothing. He looked like he was carrying something with his left hand and had a gun in his right hand,’ she said.
‘I told my kids, ‘Oh my god he has a gun, get on the ground.’
‘The kids, many whom were already on the ground, scurried to the corner of the room, the area where we’ve practiced in our lockdown drills.
‘Seconds later, while on the ground, I heard bullets rip through the window and into the ceiling.
‘Pieces of the ceiling debris were falling on to my head.’
Amid all the panic, Ogburn said she had left her cellphone on her desk but used her smartwatch instead to call 911.
‘I called 911 a total of four times. The first two times the call didn’t go through, the third time, it went through, and I heard the 911 operator, but the call dropped.
‘I then called again and finally someone answered. I told them, I’m a fourth-grade teacher at Robb Elementary and there is an active shooter in my building, please, please, hurry!
‘The operator then asked if she could stay on the line. She whispered to the operator, ‘No I can’t I don’t want him to hear me.’ She then hung up.’
After nearly 80 agonizing minutes, Ogburn said she heard police arrive and they told her to instruct her students to exit out the window where they would be met by other law enforcement
Children were seen running to safety after escaping from a window during the rescue
Days later, Ogburn said after being able to retrieve her phone she noticed she had received a text from the school sent out at 11:32am that read, [EMERGENCY] Lockdown – has been initiated at Robb Elementary School. Log into Raptor Emergency Management now for your immediate tasks.
Ogburn explained every employee has a Raptor app on their cellphone where they can send out an emergency notice.
She said for more than 30 minutes she sat on the floor with her students’ hearing gunshots ring out.
She became emotional when she described what she and her students were doing while all huddled together during the rampage.
‘We were all comforting each other, praying together, saying ‘Please God, don’t let this guy come in here.’
She said she started quietly reciting the biblical verse John 3:16 to her students.
‘They were just holding my hands. There was one little girl who kept whispering, God help us, please God help us, please. Two of the boys in my class told her to get over between them to protect her.
‘They were quiet for the most part. I whispered to them. Pray to yourself, pray to yourself.
18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24 leaving many schools in the country on edge. He legally purchased two AR-15 style rifles, including the one he used in the attack, and more than 300 rounds of ammunition after his 18th birthday the week before
‘They weren’t screaming. I did hear some whimpering. But they did exactly what we always told them to do in a situation like this.
‘The kids were frightened. As a child who is nine or ten years old having to endure that traumatic situation…I can’t even imagine. They were brave. I’m proud of them.
TIMELINE OF TERROR: HOW THE UVALDE SCHOOL UNFOLDED
May 24, 11.28am: Gunman crashes truck, gets out of car with AR-15
He is seen by witnesses in a funeral home next to the school who tell 911 they see a man with a gun walking towards the school
11.31: Gunman is now in the parking lot of the school hiding in between vehicles, shooting at the building
11.32: School resource officer who arrives in a patrol car after hearing 911 call about truck crash drives past the shooter
11.33: Gunman enters the school and begins shooting into room 111/room 112. He shoots more than 100 rounds
11.35: Three police officers enter through the same door as the suspect. They are later followed by another four, making total of seven officers on scene
Three initial officers go directly to the door. Two receive grazing wounds from Ramos while the door was closed. They hang back
11.37: Another 16 rounds are fired inside the classroom by the gunman
11.51: Police sergeant and USB agents arrive
12.03: Officers continue to arrive in the hallway. As many as 19 officers in that hallway at that time
At the same time, a girl from inside the classroom calls 911 and whispers that she is in room 112
12.10pm: The same girl calls back and advises ‘there are multiple dead’
12.13pm: The same girl calls again
12.16pm: The same girl calls 911 for the fourth time in 13 minutes asking for help
12.15pm: A Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) arrives with shields
12.16pm: The same unidentified girl calls 911 and says there are ‘8-9 students alive’ in classroom 112
12.19pm: A different child from classroom 111 calls. She hangs up when another student tells her to be quiet
12.21pm: Gunman fires again
12.26pm: One of the girls who previously called 911 calls back again. She says the shooter has just ‘shot at the door’
12.43pm: The girl is still on the line. She says “please send the police now”
12.50pm: Police finally breach the door using keys from the janitor and kill gunman
12.51pm Officers start moving children out of the room
They did what they were supposed to do,’ Ogburn said tearfully.
Finally, after what she said felt like hours, she heard officers outside of her door identifying themselves as police.
‘They mentioned their names, but I don’t remember them,’ she said.
Still cautious, Ogburn got up from the floor and made her way over to the front door, she was able to catch a glimpse of the officers in the doors’ window to verify that it was law enforcement outside their door.
They told her to instruct the students to exit out the window where they would be met by other law enforcement.
It was only then she instructed her students to get up and climb out the window.
All her students made it out and they ran to a funeral home across the street from the school. One cut their leg on the broken glass from the window, but they were otherwise all okay.
Ogburn said days later she saw a text message from one of her fellow teachers who was with her that responded back on the school’s system at 12:09pm that ‘We are all OK.’
She believes they had made it out of their classroom a few minutes prior to 12:09pm.
According to officials Ramos was killed by police at 12:50 p.m.
Ogburn said while thankful she and her students weren’t physically hurt, she is now riddled with a tremendous amount of guilt.
‘I still to this day don’t understand why he didn’t attempt to come into my room. I thank God everyday he didn’t.
‘But I also feel a lot of guilt because the people who were killed were my friends.’
The finger pointing has already begun among law enforcement.
Col. Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said in a briefing Friday, that cops on the scene made the wrong decision when they waited to breach the classroom where the gunman had barricaded himself inside with children.
‘With the benefit of hindsight, where I’m sitting now, of course it was not the right decision, it was the wrong decision, period,’ McCraw said.
The blame has mainly been directed at on Uvalde CISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo. There is even speculation he may not have even had his police radio on him when the made the decision to not have law enforcement breach the classroom.
But Ogburn says the only person to blame is the shooter.
‘The shooter is the person who came in the school and killed my two friends and 19 students. He is the sole blame for this situation. Right now, I’m not going to place the blame on others.
‘There are always going to be mistakes made, we are all human. But ultimately the gunman is responsible. Those people didn’t deserve to die.’
She says she is going to wait for an investigation to be completed before any judgements are to be made.
‘We don’t have the full story. In order for our country, my community and this world to heal from this we need to come together instead of pulling each other apart.’