For a short while, I had Monday under control. I was master of my fate. Captain of my ship or whatever.
I ironed my clothes instead of wearing whatever was least wrinkled. I ate cereal instead of nothing. I got to work at 7:45 am. I even remembered to bring my water so I would not be tempted to buy a soda. Two students came in for tutoring and were met with the materials they needed.
Now, I had some tasks to complete. My conference period is first period, and I am notorious for thinking I can pretty much do all the things in that time, and today the plan remained consistent. Step one, arrive. Step two, finish 100 to-do items. But, I had all that time because of the 7:45 start. I was golden.
And then the announcement played once, loud and clear.
“This campus is on lockdown.”
Now, I will admit to dropping things and cursing every time the fire alarm sounds, even when I know it’s coming. But the fear that came over me this morning was much different. I wasn’t shaken by the loud noise and blinking lights. I was shaken by true fear.
I walked briskly to my door and began pulling down the window cover. As I started to close my door, I grabbed two kids from the hall and a wayward teacher friend coming out of the staff lounge. I shut off all the lights and watched everyone get in the corner and sit on the floor. I grabbed my cell phone and joined them.
This was not a scheduled drill.
Right away my heart rate sped up. My friend sat close and tried to control her breathing. The four students remained silent but weren’t too upset. They asked if it was a drill and tensed a bit when we said no. I’m sure during actual drills they are often told it isn’t a drill, so I’m not surprised they did not overreact.
I did however continue to escalate my own anxiety. All I could think about was the last time I saw my sons. It wasn’t enough. I hadn’t had a chance to kiss on them and love them today. I wanted them in my lap with their soft hair tucked under my chin. I wanted to know if their school was on lockdown too. I wanted to see their faces.
And then I turned my mothering to the students in my room. I gave them permission to go on their phones and check for news. I needed it as much as they did. I could see one of the students who had been in for tutoring was actually lying on the floor trying to calm herself. I thought of the other student who had been in for tutoring. Her mom is a friend who teaches at another school in the district. Would she know this was happening? Would she know her daughter was in my care? Would that make her feel better? Did the two students I pulled in from the hall know I cared about them too even though I didn’t know them? did they trust me and the other teacher?
I checked for news. I texted people who might be able to tell me something. I texted the boys’ father to ask him to check on their school. I tried yoga breathing and went to my mental happy place.
We heard noises every now and then. The students dutifully put away their phones and stayed silent when told to do so. We saw on Twitter that students coming to school for second period were being held out of the building. Now parents were on Facebook asking if anyone knew what was going on. Some had received texts from their kids. Some wished today was not the day their kid forgot the dang phone.
At one point it sounded like someone or more than one someone was marching down the hall. I’ve never held my breath with more purpose. A few minutes later a key in my door. More breath-holding waiting to see if it was administration, police, or other. Mental plans of grabbing the kids in the room and pushing them further to the floor and completely under the tables.
And then it was done. An administrator told us to return to normal, lockdown over.
But I never did return to normal. I’m still taking shallow breaths occasionally and trying to push my stomach down out of my throat. I’m still terrorized. I got little to no work done today. I couldn’t concentrate. I could sometimes barely breathe.
It was just a drill though. An unannounced event to us to keep us on our toes as mandated by the state. Surprise! Let’s see how you handle police in the parking lot with guns up. Let’s see if you protect the students quickly and barricade yourselves into the room while you prepare to die.
I don’t ever want to do this again. I want to end these active-shooter-type drills. I want to not have a plan in place for when my school turns into hell. I don’t need to practice this because all we practiced was fear. All we are left with is fear.
It’s actually quite asinine to think that pretending some bad guy with a gun is on campus. Why do this? So we can rehearse emergency procedures? So we can keep as many people as possible safe? I don’t need to learn how to do this. I am a human being. I am a mother. I am a teacher. I will do all I can to protect those around me, and I will die trying. I will send my love to my family and try to sound in control when giving instructions to those in my charge. I will let my fight or flight take over and do what needs to be done. Or I will die in a hail of bullets as the world ends around me.
But please don’t ever make me go through it again for funsies. It’s not helping. It’s only making me cry. It’s only making me want to keep my sons home tomorrow so we can just be together all day. It’s only reminding me that any normal day can turn into my last one on Earth.
I cannot live like this.
I won’t live like this.
For the love of God, we have to get guns under control. We have to stop scaring our children with these drills. We have to stop playing at terror in hopes that we can avoid it. We can’t. Not if we go on like this. Not if we can’t talk about change. Not if we can’t agree guns are the problem. They are. And I hate them even more today then I did yesterday. And I wasn’t even staring down the barrel of one.
Because it was just a fucking drill.