(TEXAS) — As Miah Cerrillo and Khloie Torres made their way to the stage at the Galveston Island Ballroom in Galveston Texas, the entire convention erupted in a standing ovation.
The two 11-year-old students—who called 911 during the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas—were honored with the Kid Hero Award at the 2023 Texas Public Safety Conference in Galveston, Texas. The event is set up by the Texas chapters of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO).
The award comes nearly a year after 19 children and two teachers were shot to death by an 18-year-old former Robb Elementary student, who attacked the school on May 24, 2022. Cerrillo and Torres placed calls to police from inside classroom 112, where the gunman killed their friends and teachers.
Cindy McCraw, Texas NENA President, told ABC News that the Kid Hero Award is typically given to a single child, but an exception was made this year to recognize both Cerrillo and Torres.
“This was so important that I felt that both girls needed to be nominated,” she said.
McCraw said that by taking action to call 911 during the shooting, Cerrillo and Torres didn’t just save themselves, they also saved other lives.
“The fact that they even remembered to call 911, that’s a big deal,” she said. “They could have frozen, they could have waited until everything was done and then called, or just waited for somebody to come, and they just didn’t freeze, they acted, and that right there is heroic.”
Abigale Veloz, Cerrillo’s mother, said she felt emotional about the recognition her daughter received.
“As Miah’s mother, I feel very proud, she’s a strong person, awesome daughter and a wonderful sister,” she said. “She will forever be my miracle baby. She has fought for her life her whole life since she was born, and she will continue. The good thing is that she does not fight alone, she has her whole family to fight with her and protect her.”
Parts of the 911 audio in which Torres is heard, were broadcast by ABC News in February with permission from her parents. In the audio, Torres urges the 911 operator to send police into the classroom.
“Please hurry, there’s a lot of dead bodies,” Torres said in the 911 call. “Please, I’m going to die.”
McCraw, who heard the 911 calls, emphasized their emotional impact.
“Listening to it just gives you chills, the whole thing is devastating,” McCraw said. “I’ve been doing this for 22 years and I’ve listened to a lot of audio throughout the years of active shooters, kid callers and different horrible things that have been called in and recorded, but it’s still very emotional.”
Moments before the awards ceremony, McCraw coordinated a meeting between the two survivors and the 911 dispatcher who was on the phone with them that day. The meeting, which was private, was a profound experience for the girls and their families.
“They seemed to appreciate the chance to meet, and I can only hope that it has provided them with the closure they needed,” McCraw said.
McCraw hopes it helps everyone involved.
“I just didn’t want that to be a void forever, it brings closure to both parties,” McCraw said. “The girls will never wonder what the person on the other line looks like, and hopefully that fills that void and brings closure to them as they go through their healing process.”
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