Jacob Albarado had just sat down for a haircut when he received a terrifying message from his wife, a fourth-grade teacher at Ross Park elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
“There’s an active shooter,” the desperate text from his wife Trisha read. “Help,” she sent, before the words, “I love you” flashed on Albarado’s phone screen.
Albarado’s immediate response was to jump up out of his seat, and with no time to spare, the father of three grabbed the barber’s shotgun and rushed off towards the primary school, where his little daughter, Jayda, was also in class. When he arrived, he found his wife hiding under desks with her students, while his daughter, a second-grader, was locked inside a bathroom.
In another area of the school, crazed teenage gunman Salvador Ramos had opened fire, ultimately resulting in the murder of 19 children and two of their teachers, their lives ended one by one in the most cruel and harrowing way.
It took an off-duty patrol agent to charge into the school – while 19 police officers, who were on the scene before Albarado, stood outside during the slaughter, and according to reports, failed to act for over 45 minutes. It emerged over the weekend that one Uvalde mother was placed in handcuffs by federal marshals on the scene for attempting to enter the school and get her child; all while Ramos was alive inside killing children.
Albarado wasn’t willing to take any chances as his wife and daughter remained trapped inside. No time was wasted on his part in trying to save innocent children and teachers caught up in the unfolding horror, and we’ll never know how many more could have been slaughtered if it wasn’t for his bravery.
“I did what I was trained to do,” Mr Albarado simply told the media.
Not only did the off-duty officer bring his wife and daughter to safety; but he went back into the building once his wife and daughter were safe, in order to find Ramos, who was in another fourth-grade classroom. It took a husband and a dad to stop the shooter, finally bringing his massacre to an end.
Had he not rushed to the scene with his barber’s shotgun, how much worse could Ramos’s cold-blooded killing spree have been?
As the dust begins to settle on Uvalde, and as more horrifying details of the killings slowly emerge, we’ve seen wall-to-wall coverage focus on the 18-year-old shooter; news websites emblazoned with the headline, ‘What we know so far about Salvador Ramos’, with much discussion about his broken home; his ‘drug-addicted’ mother; and his social position as a lonely outcast.
Substantially less of the media coverage around the shooting has focused on Jacob Albarado, a husband, a dad, and a hero who put an end to the killing, stopping Ramos in his tracks.
The incredible reality is that it required a mother to text her husband about the shooting; a man who decisively and without hesitation rushed to the school to single-handedly rescue her and his 8-year-old daughter, saving dozens of lives in the process. Albarado’s swift and courageous action, taken while other law enforcement officers were still in the process of ‘assessing’ the situation, saw him, armed only with a shotgun, locate the shooter and eliminate the possibility of further deaths.
He took action in the face of a devastating refusal to act; we now know there were too many delays, and a lack of immediate action on the part of the responding officers, despite phone calls from terrified schoolchildren inside the building asking the police to help them.
Albarado was more concerned about saving the lives of those inside than he was about the very real possibility of being outgunned by the shooter, who we now know had 1,600 rounds of ammunition. He refused to allow himself to be paralysed by the fear that the shooter may have adopted a strategic post to shoot and kill incoming officers. He did what needed to be done at that moment, and what should have been done by droves of officers waiting outside the school.
The world should never have known the name of Salvador Ramos. Tragically, we do know his name, and his motivations, and a lot of his unfortunate backstory. There are certainly questions to be asked about whether it is in fact wise to give such coverage to a killer like Ramos, with such media elevation a possible catalyst for copycat attacks from similarly deranged individuals.
Yet the extensive reporting on Ramos as another young male shooter is indicative of one thing at least – that as a nation, the U.S., and society, on a broader level, is horribly failing young men. The one common denominator in the vast majority of mass shootings is not ideology or race; it is the fact that the perpetrators of these atrocities are young men. As a society, we are failing miserably when it comes to promoting and modelling healthy masculinity, purpose and goodness for boys and men.
The answer, then, may be found in doing everything we possibly can to promote authentic masculinity, to elevate fatherhood and to promote responsibility, hard work, and honour. In a world where innate gender differences are relentlessly, increasingly denied and masculinity is constantly undermined, we need real men more than we ever have before.
The story of high-school dropout Salvador Ramos also uncomfortably highlights the perils of absent fatherhood. Statistics from the U.S., where 1 in 4 children live without a father, don’t lie: 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes; 90% of all runaway and homeless children are also from fatherless homes; and the risk of poverty is four times greater for such children. Children without a father are more likely to go to prison, more likely to commit crime, and more likely to drop out of school.
Research ultimately shows that the absence of a father impacts children in various unfortunate ways, while a father’s presence makes a positive difference in the lives of both mothers and their children.
Yet our society continually denigrates committed fathers and husbands, instead deliberately opting for the hyper-sexualised promotion of promiscuity and self-fulfillment seen so often in popular culture, with these things glamorised and endlessly celebrated over marriage and committed fatherhood. We’ve created a society full of weak men who are afraid of their own masculinity, afraid to be strong, afraid of and downright opposed to commitment, and afraid of the beauty of family.
The story of Jacob Albarado, a man whose name should be known more than Salvador Ramos’, shows there is also nothing more valuable to a community than a man with purpose and love. There is nothing more fundamental than good fathers and loving husbands; and nothing more dangerous than weak, purposeless men, with nothing to stand up for and no one to live for.
In the case of Uvalde, just one, singular, heroic example of masculinity and fatherhood made the difference between life and death for dozens of innocent people caught up in an inconceivable tragedy. We are in dire need of more real men, who, just as Albarado did, will dedicate themselves to their families and communities without counting the cost to themselves.