5:06 p.m. ET, May 29, 2022
How Uvalde's library is helping its community heal through books, story time and self-care
When tragedy strikes, not everyone thinks about going to the library for comfort. But in Uvalde, El Progreso Memorial Library has become a place of healing.
Days after the shooting, in between aisles upon aisles of biographies, memoirs and novels that take readers on a journey away from reality, a child wearing a maroon shirt is seen holding hands with her mom as they scan books about grief.
Before the shooting, the library was simply a place to read.
Today, it is “a quiet place of refuge,” the library wrote on Facebook, where families can turn to books on mourning, hope and guidance to find their way around this tragedy.
“We want our building to be a safe space, a refuge that is a quiet, calm and cool haven,” El Progreso Memorial Library director Mendell Morgan told CNN. “This is a small, rural town with a strong Hispanic flavor. Family is key in this culture so the heinous act has impacted an enormous number of people in Uvalde and far beyond.”
On Wednesday, just a day after the shooting, children’s librarian Martha Carreon sat in front of rows of little faces, reading, singing and giggling with the children, taking them away to a safe place much unlike the school where many of them became witness to horror.
Although a few days have passed since, Morgan says everyone is still processing what took place.
“We are still in shock,” she said. “First, time is needed to allow all of us to recover from the shock, face the reality of the aftermath, and find positive ways to move forward.”
Now the library sits still, a place of utter calm in the center of a town still buzzing with the sounds of grief. While nearly every block in Uvalde is scattered with mourners crowding around memorials and strangers sharing kindness in all its forms, the library welcomes those who just need a moment to breathe.
A young woman sits on the floor, her back against a shelf where she is camouflaged within a sea of books. She journals, her fingers moving gracefully but fervently as she fills up every line. No sound comes from her except the gentle murmur of her pen meeting the page -- it is a private ritual between her and her thoughts alone.
This haven for peace and quiet is also the place to find joy and laughter, which should be more common in the upcoming summer weeks. One of the positive ways the library will help the community heal is by using donations to establish "Los Angelitos de Robb Memorial Book Fund," which will be used to buy resources in print and non-print, puzzles, games, toys and equipment for the children, Morgan said.
The library will also bring guests to join them during story time, including the Miniwonders Equine Therapy of Georgetown, a nonprofit organization that uses trained therapy miniature horses to help victims of trauma. The group will hand out stuffed animals and toys and bring their miniature horses and bunny rabbits for the children to play with.
Along with psychologists who will be available every weekday for children and adults to talk to, there will also be massage therapy practitioners, volunteers for arts and craft activities, pianists to play soothing music, and even magicians to hold professional magic shows.
“One takeaway is that this is a strong community where we have true care and concern for one another,” Morgan said. “Many, if not most here, hold fast to their faith believing in God, that good is stronger than evil and light is stronger than dark.”