3 minutes. From start to finish, they tell us that’s how long we will have. 3 minutes, 1 shooter, and a version of hell worse than any of us could have possibly imagined.
Today’s faculty meeting is different. It is all about safety. A seemingly logical and common topic for any workplace. However, today we are going deeper. Today we are planning for the possibility of an attack within our school walls. We plan for a shooter that could enter into this sacred place of learning.
The motto is “survival is a choice.” We are told that we need to plan today for an attack. We are shown zip ties and duct tape, carabines and keys. We are told that along with practicing drills with students where we crouch down in the corner, hidden out of site, teachers also need to practice. If we need to barricade the door, what furniture will we use and how long will it take to move? We consider what is best for breaking a window and should you hit in the middle or corner. We are asked how many bullets are in a typical magazine and just how long will it take the shooter to reload.
The mood is somber as we all think through the possibilities. How will I respond should this ever happen? What will I say to calm these innocent children knowing I may be the last voice they hear? Will I barricade myself in my own office or run into the hall to protect the students and put up a fight?
They are my least favorite days of the year: the days we practice security drills. I know it’s necessary but the anxiety I face as a teacher is sickening. This year there was screaming and banging in the hall as if a true fight had broken out. The terror was real for us all, even knowing the voices were familiar. Questions spew out of students’ mouths like a waterfall: Has anyone ever forgotten to lock the door? What if they see us through the window? What if they break through the door? Slowly they spiral to be more and more absurd and have to be cut off. It’s a fine balance – to help students understand the seriousness and preserve their childhood innocence. So we assure them that this won’t happen in our school and we just practice to be safe…hoping that these words will forever remain true.
So I will bring a metal bat to school, I will consider what I can tie the door to, and I will go on teachingt. Hoping each day is filled with smiles, laughter, and the inevitable smart remarks rather than fear, hatred, and gunshots.