Late Tuesday night, Luz Belliard sat on the edge of her bed in upper Manhattan in the room she shares with her 9-year-old granddaughter, Victoria, and thought about what to say.
Victoria, a third grader, was sitting on her own bed, which was covered in stuffed animals; she had already seen on the evening news that children her age had been killed in a mass shooting at a school in Texas.
Now, Belliard had to consider just what she would tell Victoria on their walk to school the next morning: Listen to your teachers. Get down on the floor. Remember the drills you do in class.
"She's young, but she understands — sometimes too much," Belliard said Wednesday outside Victoria's school in Washington Heights. "To take your child to school and then come back to see them dead, it's not fair. It should not be that way."
Victoria was standing at her grandmother's side.
"It's sad that a lot of children died that way. Those children had a big life ahead of them," the girl said. "When I hear that kind of stuff it makes me scared."
In New York and across the country Wednesday, children, parents and caregivers grappled with the aftermath of the deadly shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two teachers before being shot dead by authorities.
They hugged their children a little tighter and lingered a little longer at drop-off. They could imagine too easily a gunman bursting into their own child's classroom. And they were once again faced with a haunting question: Is there anywhere in America where schoolchildren can truly be safe?
Some schools around the country took extra precautions in the wake of the shooting. Schools in Texas and Florida banned backpacks from buildings Wednesday. Officials in states including Georgia and Virginia sent extra officers to schools as a precaution. In New York City, home to the nation's largest school system, officials are considering ways to tighten security, including locking school doors after children have arrived for the day.
The shooting has cast a somber tone over the final days and weeks of the school year.
"Sometimes I don't know what to say publicly," Deborah Gist, superintendent of schools in Tulsa, Oklahoma, wrote in a Facebook post. "I feel a huge responsibility to use the right words. How, though, do I express the horror, outrage, frustration, disappointment, pain, and fear that an event like the shooting in Uvalde brings? It is a parent's, a teacher's, a principal's, and a superintendent's worst nightmare."