Instead, he remembers the reality of what happens when a gunman armed with an assault rifle opts for an elementary school massacre.
“He just saw the gunman come to the door and his teacher say ‘good night’ and shot her,” AJ’s mom, Kassandra Chavez, told CNN. “And then (the gunman) just announced, ‘Are you all ready to to die?’ and went mad, said my son, with a gunshot everywhere.”
Jaydien Canizales, 10, remembers that too – how his teacher fell on one of his friends and how the shooter got on his knees as he addressed the fourth graders room with his threats.
AJ hid under backpacks. Jaydien and a friend took cover under a curtained table and tried to get others to join them while closing their eyes and covering their ears against the horror.
Ten-year-old Noah Orona feared he was too tall to get under the table with Jaydien. He was shot in the back and fell to the floor of class 112, his mother, Jessica Orona, said.
There they had to stay for 77 minutes, until law enforcement officers opened the door to classroom 111 and confronted the gunman and killed him.
Orona described some of the sights and sounds of those 77 minutes that Noah told her. “One of the little girls he was laying with, all he could hear was her gurgling because she was trying to breathe, but she couldn’t because she got shot and you could just hear her choking,” she said.
Chavez recalled seeing AJ in the hospital, his face smeared with someone else’s blood, probably from lying on the floor. “I just saw my son’s face with blood on it. And I thought, what is he bleeding from? And the doctor says, ‘He’s fine. That’s not his,'” she said.
Scenes from that day and the painful waiting are also repeated for the parents. Chavez told her son what it was like outside the school, where families gathered within minutes of the gunfire starting.
“We’re waiting outside to hear something or something’s going to happen. The news that you’re coming out and you’re lying there bleeding on the floor with all the police officers in the hallway,” she told AJ.
Orona said the delay was impossible to explain to Noah. “You know, to tell them, ‘Yeah, they were there, but nobody came to help you.'”
AJ heard the officers just outside the classroom door. So did Jaydien. His mother said he remembers the children being asked by the police to call for help if they needed it. But a girl who did just that caught the attention of the gunman, who then shot her dead.
Families who don’t know what’s going to happen
Tuesday has been seven weeks since the massacre. The families of the survivors still don’t really know what lies ahead.
“You’d think things would go back to normal — the way people assume they are — just because (my son) is alive and here, but it’s not,” Orona said. “My son has trouble sleeping because he is in a big crowd, anything loud scares him, being alone.”
She continued: “Of course we feel blessed because he is here … but every day it is a struggle. It is something that will not be cured in a week, a month.”
Jaydien’s mother, Azeneth Rodriguez, added: “He will remember what happened that day and it will stick to his head for the rest of his life.”
The families managed to keep their children away from July 4 fireworks with all the sounds of explosions, but there are many other triggers, they said.
“We were having a barbecue the other day and he said, ‘What’s that smell, that burning smell?'” Orona said of her son, Noah. “And I thought, ‘What’s going on?’ And he just said, ‘I can smell that smoky smell — and that’s how we were in class.'”
‘Our children are no longer the same’
AJ and Jaydien are often upset about what happened that they couldn’t stop it and no one else did, their moms say.
After an eruption, AJ will collapse, Chavez said. “He says to me, ‘Mom, I hate the shooter. I hate that he killed my friends and my two teachers.'”
Jaydien asked to speak to CNN to give his version of what went wrong at the school. “If we had more people, this never would have happened,” he said, referring to police officers.
He lost his cousin Rojelio Torres and his best friend, Jayce Luevanos, both 10, in the classroom next door.
He said he now wants “police everywhere” to stop more violence, but when asked what makes it so difficult today, he replied: “That my mother can afford almost nothing.”
Rodriguez said she hadn’t been to work since May 24, the day of the shooting. There has been financial help, but she had to go find it – no one called to check in or offer it.
Chavez came in: “We don’t want to bother or bother anyone with it, but at the same time, the bills don’t hold up.”
And those bills include medical visits, therapy, and probably more than the families can comprehend right now, taking both their time and money.
Orona said, “It’s just something that doesn’t have the time — to say, okay, give us enough for a month or a year or something. They’re going to have problems for the rest of their lives… kids aren’t the same anymore. They’re not like they used to be.”
Some parents of surviving children have even apologized to the families of the dead for the fact that their own sons and daughters are still alive. The mothers who spoke to CNN said they had never conducted media interviews to make sure they were paying attention to the bereaved and those they lost.
Orona believes her son had a purpose to be spared. Rodriguez fears that something else bad could happen to Jaydien at any moment. Chavez says she is doing everything she can to take care of AJ without neglecting her other two children.
She fought not to cry in front of her son in the hospital as she wiped someone else’s blood from his face.
Orona says she hasn’t cried at all.
“The day that happened, I just stopped and just said, ‘I have to be strong for my son.’ And it’s been hard. There are times when I just want to break down and cry, but I just can’t let myself do that,” she said. “I can’t bring myself to cry right now. Maybe in a few months I could totally collapse. But me, me, it’s just too hard.”