Berrendo Middle School shooting victim Nathaniel Tavarez returns home to a hero’s welcome, Friday afternoon. (Mark Wilson Photos)
Hundreds lined the streets and cheered Friday as sirens from fire and law enforcement vehicles ushered home the 12-year-old boy who was seriously injured last month in the Berrendo Middle School shooting.
Nathaniel Tavarez still cannot see following injuries suffered to his eyes. He told his mother he wanted “lots of friends and lots of noise” when he returned home.
“He had a ball. He said, ‘I can’t see but I can hear!” his mother Donna Tavarez said.
A seventh-grader is accused of taking a shotgun to the school and opening fire on Tavarez and a girl, Kendal Sanders, Jan. 14.
The 12-year-old suspect has been charged as a juvenile with three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Several residents stood along the streets and held signs or waved as a caravan of emergency vehicles led the family home.
Tavarez hugged friends and neighbors outside once he arrived. He smiled and danced in the walkway as those who gathered outside cheered.
His mother said all he could talk about was returning to school.
“He holds no grudges at all,” she said. “He just wants to go back to school. He loves his teachers, his friends.”
The boy has few memories of the incident. He suffered wounds to his stomach, face, eyes and brain. Surgeons were unable to remove the shots in his brain, his mother said. He may regain some sight in his right eye.
“I believe my son will see again, 100 percent,” Donna said.
She could not hold back her tears as she recalled the first few hours of the tragic events.
“It was God that helped get us through,” she said. “I was definitely scared and we thought we were going to lose him.”
Her son wanted to drive by the school Friday, but they just couldn’t make it, she said. The first thing he asked in the hospital when he became aware of what happened, was if anyone died.
“He was so afraid that somebody got hurt,” Donna said. “He was conscious for just a little bit, but after that he didn’t know.”
Tavarez is praying for the shooter and “for God to be with him at this time of need, because that is what has gotten us through, is faith,” his mother said.
She also thanked the community for the support the family received following the tragedy. She and her husband cried from the minute they left the University Medical Center in Lubbock until they arrived home, she said.
“We’re going to turn around and do that back to the community as well,” she said. “We have been very blessed with this community.”
Mayor Del Jurney was one of many who escorted Tavarez home.
“Today is a happy day for the City of Roswell,” Jurney said. “For Nathaniel to be welcomed home, and for him to be so courageous — he’s such a survivor. It’s such a blessing. It’s a good day.”
The number of people who lined Second Street to show support made the trip “very emotional,” Jurney said.
“What a community,” Jurney said.
People poured out of shops, children held on to their parents’ hands and others waved flags and signs as the line of screaming vehicles passed through slowly around 3:15 p.m.
“The kid’s been through a lot,” said Dale King, who stood waiting for the caravan in front of Roswell Livestock. “This is a good show from the community. We stand behind him and his family no matter what the future brings to him.”
Berrendo Middle School shooting victim Nathaniel Tavarez returns home to a hero’s welcome, Friday afternoon.
Well-wishers of Berrendo Middle School shooting victim Nathaniel Tavarez line North Sycamore Avenue to greet him on his return home, Friday afternoon.
Tavarez poses for a photo with two supporters, Friday afternoon.