A school teacher from Robb Elementary School has spoken about how the “longest 35 minutes of my life” unfolded during the school shooting that claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers.

The teacher spoke to a reporter from NBC News on the condition that she not be named, partly because district administrators asked staff not to speak with reporters, but also because she was terrified.

On Wednesday night, 28 hours and 45 minutes after the gunman charged into the school and opened fire, the teacher answered her door with puffy eyes from hours of crying and almost no sleep.

“What do you want me to say?” she asked the reporter. “That I can’t eat? That all I hear are their voices screaming? And I can’t help them?”

She recalled how her students had been watching a Disney movie that morning as part of their end-of-year celebration.

When she heard gunfire from down the hall, she knew exactly what it was, telling her kids to get under their desks and sprinting to lock the door.

“They’ve been practising for this day for years,” the teacher said, referring to active shooter drills that have been incorporated into American public education over the years.

“They knew this wasn’t a drill. We knew we had to be quiet or else we were going to give ourselves away.”

While her students huddled under their desks, staying quiet while hearing their wounded classmates down the hall, the teacher sat in the middle of the room. She said she tried to stay calm and be strong for them.

She said what followed was “the longest 35 minutes of my life”.

As some of her students began to cry, she motioned for them to come sit with her and held them, whispering for them to pray silently.

Without saying a word, she tried to convey to the class: ‘You’re OK. We’re going to be OK.’

When the police finally broke the classroom windows, the teacher called for her students to line up as they would every day for recess and lunch before they were helped out of the window.

“After the last kid, I turned around to ensure everyone was out,” the teacher said. “I knew I had to go quickly, but I wasn’t leaving until I knew for sure.”

She later reunited with her students at another school facility across town and tried to comfort those who were worried about their best friends or cousins down the hall.

Then, as the toll of the shooting became clearer, some parents texted her, writing: “Thank you for keeping my baby safe.”

“But it’s not just their baby,” the teacher said, sobbing on her front porch. “That’s my baby, too. They are not my students. They are my children.”

Before closing her door, she had an important message to share with the reporter.

“I want you to say this in your article,” the teacher said. “Our children did not deserve this. They were loved. Not only by their families, but their family at school.”

Image: Getty Images

This article first appeared on OverSixty.