Welcome friends...thanks for coming by. We're seeking beauty in all of creation... in our faith and our families; our art and our music; our crafts and kitchens, and even in our own backyard. We'll share a poem or a recipe, a picture or a memory; maybe a dream of how we wish our life could be. And though we acknowledge that the world can be harsh, we're keeping it pleasant in our little corner; endeavoring to keep the words from the Book of all Books: ...Whatsoever things are lovely; think on these things.

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Photo: Bee and thistle: Taken high in the Cascade Mountains where there is a bee buzzing on every thistle. by Debora Rorvig

Saturday, May 10, 2014

School Lockdown

"Attention staff...WE ARE IN LOCKDOWN," came the announcement over the PA system in our school. It was Mary, our school secretary who made the call. Mary is the poster girl for cool-calm-and collected; but today her voice was different. Fearful. This was no drill; it was the real deal.

We sprang into action. Close the blinds. Hide the students.  Joanne runs across the hall to check the restroom for stray students and dashes down another corridor to lock the door to the playground. We hate this part.  If we hear gunshots it's agreed that we will not open the door to let her back in. She will be on her own out there. The students come first. She sprints back and Terri, who's watching anxiously through the blinds at the doorway, allows her to slip quietly back into the room and re-locks the door.

Now we wait. I try to control the trembling in my hand as I stroke the head of little Angelica, who sits under a table next to me. She looks up at me, her eyes are big and round and full of anxiety. "Is this for real?" she whispers.

"Yes honey. Hush. We'll be fine." But I wonder. I pray silently for guardian angels and policemen; and try to recall comforting Bible verses. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord; he is my refuge...


 Every sound is magnified. I strain to hear voices in the hallway or God-forbid...gunshots. Someone coughs. I cringe. It's grade-school. Somebody's always got a cold. Absolute silence is impossible in a roomful of third graders. The halls are strangely silent. Eerie. The table I'm crouched under is kid-sized and my joints are stiffening up from being hunched into a little ball. I try to adjust myself a bit. Peeking up at the clock I see that it's been about twenty minutes. Where are the police? I look toward the windows, searching for shadows or perhaps the sun reflecting off a windshield of a of car entering the parking lot. Nothing. Where are they? An airplane buzzes lazily overhead. It feels otherworldly. Surreal.

The fear is subsiding as time passes and I am no longer trembling. I look around the room. What can I use for defense? Books? Overhead projector? Chairs? This is not good. There is nothing within reach that I could use as a weapon. I whisper to the librarian who's hunched up under the table with me and Angelica, "If we have to, we can turn this table over and shield ourselves." She nods. Not much of a plan. But it's all we've got.

With my 'plan' in place, my thought turn philosophical. If we get out of here...should I keep this job? Is it worth this kind of risk? If something really happens in this room will I sacrifice my life for a child? The answers were easy and immediate. Yes. Yes. And Yes. I wish I had my cell phone so I could text my husband and children. Note to self: Keep your cellphone with you at all times.

Across the room Joanne is crawling on her hands and knees toward the a closet. What on earth is she doing? She places trash can inside the closet, then beckons a boy. He crawls, commando-style to the closet and goes in and closes the door partway. Then he comes out. It dawns on me. He had to pee.
I have to chuckle. Custodian's gonna love that!

It's been over an hour. Finally, a voice comes over the PA. "This is Mr. B. You are in no immediate danger but we will remain in lockdown for a while longer."

I could feel a collective sigh of relief coming from every classroom in the school. Then a short time later, another announcement. Partial lockdown. We can move about the school, but are safely locked inside. And then... it was over.

Sometime after 10 a.m. on May 2nd a 911 caller said that there was a man with a rifle at the local high school and that gunshots had been fired. A short time later another 911 report was made that there was a shooter at the hardware store. At the same time there was a stabbing at a home near an elementary school. The police; figuring the events were somehow connected; ordered a lockdown of our entire school district. A SWAT team was sent to the high school where every room and student was searched. In all, Two high schools, two middle schools, five elementary schools; several thousand children were locked down for about an hour and a half. In the end it appears that the man who committed the stabbing and later shot himself had called in the reports to throw police off his trail.

Thankfully, we were all safe. The stabbing victim survived. And in a way, this event turned out to be a blessing. This is my Facebook post following the crisis...

Dear friends,
I've been giving a lot of thought to the hour or so we all spent in lockdown in our school district. In retrospect, I've come to see that the experience was a unique gift. Blessedly, without experiencing a terrible loss, we were all given a chance to view ourselves and others through the lens of a crisis. Who were we for that hour? I know personally, and heard from others; we were ordinary people who were willing to try and protect children first. That's who we--who YOU were for that hour. And that's who we--who YOU really are. What an exquisite gift! (But I still hope it never happens again!)


And so dear friends, in closing, please; when tempted to malign teachers, I hope you remember this story. I hope you remember that there are those of us who, when we initially answered the call of our hearts to teach young children; had no idea that it might involve sacrificing our very lives for them. And yet we remain true to the profession. Of course there are bad teachers; and please, by all means--hold us to the highest standards! Expect excellence, your kids deserve no less. But always remember that one day it could be your child or grandchild crouched under that desk with her teacher stroking her hair, hugging her and reassuring her that she will be OK. That teacher is willing to give her life, if necessary, to protect your baby.

So this summer break,
 instead of griping about all of the time off that your children's teachers have...
 wish us well.  


Elephant's Child said...

Good teachers are a precious gift - who stay with us all of our lives.
So yes, crisis or not, I wish you well and admire you.

Bookie said...

This must have been so trying for you. It made my heart race just the reading of it. Enjoy your summer ahead!!!

joanne said...

wow. glad it ended well.
good teachers are a gift from God. Blessings to you dear one.

Linda O'Connell said...

How terrifying that must have been. My granddaughter works in an office located in a bank building. There was a robbery at a check cashing place nearby, so her building went on lock down. It ended in a shoot out on a parking lot. Crazy world. Glad everyone is safe.

Joey said...

I got goose bumps as I read this. Thank you for sharing it. Enjoy your summer break and GBYRG!


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