I experienced my first school lockdown today. A real one. Not a drill. The adrenaline surge has left me in a puddle of exhaustion.
The announcement came in the middle of sixth period, just after final lunch had been released. We were in journalism class in the computer lab when we heard Code Red.
Students looked up, eyes wide. “Is this real?” they asked.
We were always warned if there was a drill about to take place. “Turn off your monitors and get in the corner,” I said.
And they did. Twenty-one kids, sitting knees to chest, huddling under a giant window, blinds closed above them, cinder block walls at their back, silent. And there we sat in the dark. Feeling unbelievably vulnerable.
It was the only place out of view from the door — a door with a window and no blinds, no posters, no covering whatsoever.
From our corner, I looked around… noticed backpacks. Took a risk and stepped into the open to slide them out of view. If somebody saw them through that door window, they would know we were there. I contemplated how best to upend tables and block that door… and it’s bare, vertical window. A window a full-sized person could walk straight through.
Did I mention we felt vulnerable?
But we also felt prepared. We knew what to do. We’d had dry runs before. So we did it.
They stayed calm. I stayed calm.
But of course, my mind flew to the anniversaries of recent history. Visions surged in time with my pulse.
Bloody students tumbling out windows at Columbine.
Twisted concrete and metal and a day care in rubble in Oklahoma City.
A religious zealout, a dusty compound, the dense smoke of Waco.
An April birthday as a target date. Hitler. And unhappily my grandmother’s.
So I never forget.
Yes, I was more than a little terrified. We heard helicopters. Administrators with radios. Each other’s heartbeats.
Until our principal came on and said we would remain in a soft lockdown, and that we should resume teaching.
My kids went silently back to their desks. No one was allowed to leave. There would be no class change. No check outs. No work-release.
For approximately an hour, we sheltered in place. Until we received an all-clear.
I’m mush. I’m exhausted. I’m completely spent.
My students, though — they went right back to their daily lives. They went right back to laughing and completing study guides and making weekend plans. To being kids.
And I’m glad. I’m glad they don’t truly understand the weight of the hostile world that is riding roughshod on my adult heart right now. I’m glad they are still young and ignorant enough to be young and ignorant.
Reality can come later for them. Like it couldn’t for Columbine’s kids. Like it couldn’t for Newtown’s kids. Like it couldn’t for Parkland’s. Like it couldn’t for so many, many, many other kids. Twenty years’ worth of senseless tragedies. Twenty years’ worth of lives and innocence. Lost.
Our students are so, so fortunate to remain young and ignorant. And alive.