I’ve written the following after the fact. I did not write it in real time. Just thought I’d throw that out there. I wrote it this way, though, to give an idea of what it felt like as the morning progressed. I based the times on when the texts and phone calls came and went. I could not have thought out how to write this as we experienced it. My mind was busy. Thanks.
Right now our local high school is in a lockdown. My husband teaches there and my daughter and son are students. I have texted all three, but have not received a response from any of them, yet. My phone is blowing up with friends asking for information about what is going on and I am sad that I cannot offer any reassurances. We all know exactly the same thing. Nothing. I tell my friends not to worry, yet, not to overreact. I’m sure it is nothing. I’m trying not to overreact.
Do I sound cold and heartless in the face of what could be a crisis? Three very important pieces of my heart are locked in that building. Believe me, I am not! I simply know nothing. In the wake of San Bernadino and all of the other horrific events that have happened in our cities and schools in the last years, it is very normal to feel panicked and scared. While I wait, there are a million things running through my mind. I am a mom. What can I say? I imagine the worst. I see my husband protecting an entire classroom of teenagers while he worries about his own children in other parts of the school. I see my daughter huddled under a desk with her friends. I see my son helping his teacher bar the door against intruders. I see images from school shootings in the past and picture my own children and husband in them. None of this happened. They are just the horrible imaginings running through my mind.
This situation is out of my control, though, so I am praying and trying to remember that no news is usually good news. Cell service there is sketchy in some parts of the building. Students and staff are not allowed to post details on social media as a safety precaution. I see people posting on social media already, but they are outside of the situation and speculating. I really hate this because all they are doing is scaring others further. I want to be calm and reasonable in what is probably just a false alarm. Just a prank. Taking a deep breath.
I got a text from my husband. He is fine. Lockdown is modified. Please don’t post anything on Facebook, he asks. We are going on with classwork. No, I don’t have details, he says. Talk to you soon. I love you.
I love you, we say. What if? I’m thinking…
I’m fighting tears and telling myself not to be melodramatic. It will be nothing.
In my head, I’m sure this incident is a kid who is being malicious, but harmless. Someone thought they’d get away with a scary prank. Maybe disrupt the day at school and get everyone sent home. In my heart, though, I’m feeling every second of every minute. I take reassurance in the word “modified.” That means this isn’t a weapon. If there were a shooter, a gun, even a hint of a gun, the school would be in a full blown lockdown. I’m holding that piece of knowledge close to my heart.
First response from my children. My daughter tells me she is in her history class and fine. Chill, Mom, she says. We’re fine. I tell her to stay safe and keep her head down. We aren’t at war, Mom. (I’m imagining the eye roll.) You know what I mean, I tell her, rolling my own eyes.
Another round of I love you. Because… what if?
I’ve group texted my kids and my daughter sends a message to her brother. Timothy! Text Mom or she’ll cry! (Oh, how she knows me.)
My son was in a classroom with little to no cell reception. It was another 34 minutes before I got a message from him. I’m ok, he said. I think we should all come home and sleep. Nope, but I love you, I say.
Lots of things are happening here in my little brain right now. My husband and kids are ok. I’ve received messages from some of their friends as well, so I know school wide they seem fine, if a little annoyed at being stuck in the same room for this long. I hate that there is bad cell service in some areas of the building. What if the phone lines were cut? How would anyone communicate to those staff and students in those areas? I take into consideration the attitude of my children. They are fine. My son is even trying to get me to come and get him, which I will not do, but I’ll get to that in a minute. (He wasn’t scared, just saw an opportunity for a nap.)
With so many emotions and so much turmoil involved in a situation like this here is the one thing I’ve been able to process, since I’ve heard from my family. I hate that this has become commonplace. I heard myself saying to a friend, no, there is no active shooter. I actually threw that phrase out there just like I might say, no sugar please. I prefer my coffee black. Or, no, I didn’t eat the last cupcake. The dog must have.
They are such a household terms now. Active shooter. Lockdown. Unspecified threat. I heard, and repeated, all of those words today. What the heck is going on in our society that this is normal?! How are we even having this conversation?!
Why won’t I go and pick up my kids, you ask? For one thing, there is no imminent threat. I have faith in the administrators, staff, and law enforcement personnel to do their jobs. From the beginning, no one in a leadership role believed this was a credible threat, but ANY threat to students is taken very seriously and they took every measure to ensure that every person on campus was safe. Had there been a greater threat my first instinct, of course, is to run to the aid of my kids. I would not walk onto that campus uninvited even then, however, and this is why. I refuse to confuse the situation further. I will not go into a crisis like that and muddy the perspective for those who are trained to help. I want all of the attention of the first responders to be focused on the kids and staff members already there. I want them working toward a resolution without my crazy Mom-ness getting in the way. Oh, I’ll be the first one with my toe on the line as far as they’ll allow me, but I’m not going to go in there thinking I’ll help when in reality I could just get in the way.
Oh, hey. Who put this soap box here, right in front of me? Let me just hop on down from here. Ok. Anyhoo…
The school district sent a robocall to parents and posted to social media the following statement:
“X Brand High School is currently investigating an unsubstantiated threat that was reported to school security personnel. At this time the administrative team has placed the school in modified lockdown and contacted law enforcement to assist in the investigation. While the threat has not been proven credible nor was it specific in nature, the paramount duty of our schools are to ensure the safety of their students and we take all threats seriously. We will update as more information is available.”
We all continued through our day, waiting.
I got a call from my husband saying the kids would be allowed to move to their next classes, but no one was allowed outside. They served lunch. My husband ended up locked down in his office area for planning and lunch. He was not allowed back to his classroom. The investigation continued. I served lunch to my daycare sweeties and played with them while I kept an eye and ear on my phone.
I received the robocall from the school saying that the lockdown was over and the threat had been proven false.
I’m so very thankful to not join the ranks of those around the world who have experienced terror. I am thankful that our school is safe and that our staff and leadership are calm and organized. I am grateful that all the news we got was good and we can go about our day as if nothing happened, because nothing happened beyond an inconvenient disruption in our schedule.
Except something did happen today. We were made to acknowledge that our world has changed from when we were kids. Our sleepy little town was shaken a bit. No one feels safe and everyone wants to be. How do we make ourselves feel secure again? Every time we learn of a shooting or a terrorist action we feel more and more vulnerable. I don’t have the answers. I wish I did.
Today, I will pray with a thankful heart that it DIDN’T happen here. That all of our kids will go about their lives with no scars, no loss. I will continue to pray that it NEVER happens here, or anywhere else again.
Crushed my daughter in a hug the minute she walked in the door. I’m pretty sure she’s rolling her eyes, but she hugged me back anyway.