10.24.2014

My First Lockdown. Holy $H–!

So there I was at my son's parent-teacher conference this Wednesday, two minutes into hearing how superawesomeamazeball the Duke is doing. I was feeling good and gooey with pride since, clearly, I'm the tree the apple didn't fall far from. And that's when the announcement came over the loudspeaker–

"ATTENTION, PLEASE:  A LOCKDOWN OF THE SCHOOL HAS BEEN ORDERED. STUDENTS AND STAFF RETURN TO THE NEAREST CLASSROOM OR OFFICE. TEACHERS, LOCK YOUR DOORS AND KEEP STUDENTS INSIDE UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.”

My son's teacher looked at me, concerned, and said she didn't think this was a drill since 'there's no way they would do that' during conferences. After all, it would totally screw up the schedule for the rest of the day, right? Then she began to initiate lockdown procedures.

At a time like this, there are a plethora of ways to react. You could pee your pants, freeze in place, start praying. My first instinct was to make a run for it.

See, I've become a smidge claustrophobic lately, so my initial fear wasn't just of some masked gunman roaming the halls, but of being locked inside a room with closed windows for god knows how long. Somehow I remained calm enough to walk–not sprint–towards the door, wanting to get to wide open space or at least take a few last breaths of fresh air. But the minute my toe stepped out into the hall, the teacher gently asked me to remain in the classroom. Then she locked the door and shut off the lights.

GULP. 

Time now for the peeing and praying.

We had to stand against a back wall where we couldn't be seen by anyone looking in from the hallway, and we were supposed to keep quiet. But my mind was anything but. 

My thoughts ran the gamut from the insane...

what if someone busts in this room and starts firing at us with an Uzi?

...to the inane...

why didn't I eat lunch before I left the house? how long will I be stuck here without food and water?

...to the positively mundane...

will I be allowed to text my husband to tell him he might have to pick up the twins? And will he annoyed that I'm not free to do it?

My dread spiked to fever pitch when I heard footsteps out in the hallway and somebody rattled the classroom's locked doorknob. The teacher held up the lanyard around her neck, letting me know that she had the key so we were okay. To her credit, she seemed totally calm, and whispered to me that sometimes when there's a bank robbery or other crime committed nearby, the school goes into lockdown mode just as a precaution. This made me feel a bit better. After all, what is the likelihood that some hoodlum on a crime spree is going to think, 'My next stop will be the Middle School! I bet I can steal a few textbooks there. Maybe help myself to some aspirin in the nurse's office!'??  Finally, after maybe five to seven of the longest minutes of my life, there was another announcement over the P.A. system telling us things were all clear and we could now resume normal activity. 

And just like that, my panic attack ended, conferences continued, and I went back to hearing what an amazeball student my Mini Me was. But all I could think about was how amazing these teachers are, the way they have to push their own fears aside to corral and comfort a room full of kids. Ohmigod. I give them sooo much credit. Having just experienced my first lockdown, I could only imagine what must go through the minds of little children. Little did I know, I was about to find out.

Picking up my twins from elementary school a bit later–with time to spare– I told them, 'GUESS WHAT, MOMMY WAS ON LOCKDOWN TODAY AT YOUR BROTHER'S SCHOOL!' I expected Gasps! Questions! Sympathy! Or at the very least, widened eyes.  Instead, Roo casually remarked, 'Oh yeah,' as if remembering something trivial like not eating his lunch. 'We had one in gym today. We went inside the gym closet. What was great about it was, it was nice and big and there was a lot of cool stuff in there.'

'Wait a minute,' I said, 'YOU were also in lockdown today? Around one-o'clock?'  Back when I'd been having a canary having a cow in my older son's classroom, it hadn't even occurred to me that whatever threat there was might be district wide.

'Uh-huh,' my daughter, Bean, chimed in like it was no big deal.

ME: Where did you hide?

HER: In our cubbies. It was recess, and my friends and I were playing with this toy car we named Tiger, so I brought it in there with me and everyone was trying to touch it. It was funny.

What the what??!! Were Bean and Roo really describing their lockdown using words like funny and cool?

At first, hearing my kids talk like this made me sad. To them, school lockdowns and evacuations had become as commonplace as fire drills or getting checked for head lice. On this very same Wednesday, as it turns out, the White House had been on lockdown too, as well as much of the Canadian city of Ottawa. And this particular lockdown in my school district was caused by a threatening call made to the principal's office. Now, I know this is supposed to be the part of the story where I lament recent tragedies that have driven us to these extreme measures, or where I lambast all the schools that order lockdowns for dumbass stuff like that kid rapping like the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air about shooting b-ball outside of the school. (The office receptionist misheard the lyric, thought he was talking about 'shooting people'). But other, smarter writers have done that better, and honestly, that's not my point. 

I just went through something very traumatic, so this post IS ALL ABOUT ME.  Wait. No, not really. My point is this: for us parents who are worried about how these security measures are affecting our kids, maybe we don't need to be. The mere normalness of these types of drill is rendering our children immune to them. And perhaps that's a good thing. My third graders weren't anxiety riddled like their mom was, and in the event of imminent danger, hopefully cooler heads will prevail. 

We might be frightened of what's out there in the world, but our kids are learning to take adversity in stride. Thank you to all the incredible teachers who are showing them how. Now, if only someone could teach me. All I know is, next time there are conferences, I'm going to make sure I eat lunch first.

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2 comments:

  1. What comes to mind are the stories my mother told about the air raid drills they had in school, aka hide under your desk and pray! I hope the benefit of these modern day drills, and yes I'm an eternal optomist, are 1.children know someone's looking out for them and cares enough to do something about it and 2. you should alway have a plan and most importantly practice that plan. I could dive into greater lengths but I'll side with brevity, so there's my two-cents.
    p.s. seriously, you didn't have a snack in your purse?! An apple, granola bar, etc...?! Lesson well leaened!!!!

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  2. Katie-Anne, I know every generation has some threat to deal with. Mine was the cold war and the fear of nuclear bombs, but we just lived with the fear, no way to prevent being vulnerable.
    And you're right, it's good to have a plan so next time, a protein bar :-)

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