Sunday, December 16, 2012

This is a drill

Door locked, windows covered, lights off, students behind heavy desks.  This is only a drill, but it is hard not to think about the what-ifs at a time like this.  What if I couldn't get to the door in time?  What if the room next door was breached, leaving only the unlockable interior door?  What if the shooter took aim at the flimsy walls of our portable classroom?  What it...?

Many of the students are giggling, their seventh-grade hormones reacting to the forced proximity of other students.  They whisper, boredom growing as the drill drags on.  But afterwards, it's clear that some of them were thinking about the implications of a lockdown drill.  Do you think this will ever happen for real?  How would we know to go into lockdown?  How would we know when it's safe to come out again?

The image from the Newtown, CT, shootings that most sticks in my mind is of a line of students being shepherded through the parking lot by their teachers.  Fear and anguish are manifest on the children's faces; this is something no child should have to experience ever, let alone in a place dedicated to their nurturing.  But what I look at more is their teachers' expressions: set, determined, unwavering.  They are focused on the students and their safety.

I recognize this, although my experience did not end with the sudden absence of colleagues and children.  But I remember September 11th and the drive to make sure the students in my charge were ok and taken care of and kept safe.  I try to imagine maintaining the same presence with the sound of gunfire and the more immediate fear of mortality.  I can only hope that this will remain a drill and only a drill.