Six months after the horrific school-shooting that resulted in the death of 19 children and two educators in Uvalde, Texas, Matthew McConaughey, a native of the city, is discussing the decision to take his children to a viewing of one of the deceased victims.
“The family asked if we wanted to bring our kids. My thought was … ‘Are you ready to look life in the eye and understand that death is part of it?’ Well, I don’t want my children seeing that in a movie or a comic book. I asked each one of them if they wanted to, and they said yes,” he told People Magazine for the People of the Year issue, for which he is one of four individuals selected.
“We tried to prepare them. I don’t think it’s too early to expose them in this most natural way. As a father, what do I hope they get out of it? Respect, more respect for their own life. More thanks and gratitude for the life they’ve got, for being able to go to school and come home safe from school another day,” he shared.
McConaughey and his wife Camila Alves have three children together: son Levi, 14, daughter Vida, 12, and son Livingston, 9.
Of the experience, McConaughey says his children “asked many questions.”
“We talked about it,” he added. “And even in their youth, they got it. Now, mind you, we didn’t give them day after day of that, we gave them a day and a half. After that, [I said], ‘Me and Mom have to go into town. Y’all stay out here at the ranch and play around.'”
Throughout their time in Uvalde, McConaughey and Alves forged lasting relationships with the impacted families.
“When we went to Uvalde, we both didn’t know where or how we would be needed most, but once we arrived, it became clear that our connection was with the families, and especially Camila with the mothers. She became a support system for them, and even now, long after we have left, she still maintains that support when needed.”
The circumstances in which he met the family members of the victims were harrowing, so soon after the attack.
“We met families who had just found out – and this is over a day later – that it was confirmed one of their children had [died]. DNA tests had to be done, because some of the bodies were so mutilated,” he said.
He quickly learned that the families were not looking for an apology but rather an ear to listen and a conversation to be shared.
“After meeting those families, it became very clear they didn’t want to hear us say, ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.’ In the first meetings, we said, ‘So what was your favorite thing about your kid? What’d they love to do?’ And each one would light up, and they’re smiling, and then they’re laughing. They’d just come to life. And I realized that they weren’t mourning the death of their child as much as they were just trying to keep the life force within their [child’s] dreams, the memory of that person, alive.”
McConaughey previously spoke about “responsible gun ownership” at the White House in June.