St. Johns, Michigan
Sierra Vista, Arizona
San Bernardino, California
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
New Orleans, Louisiana
Los Angeles, California
Oxon Hill, Maryland
New York City
Sante Fe, New Mexico
Since the beginning of 2018, these are the many schools who have experienced the horror of a school shooting. Sending my three boys to public school creates a certain amount of anxiety for me, as I'm certain most parents feel these days. When my elementary boys came home and told me about their safety drill at school, I broke down.
When I was in elementary school we had fire and tornado drills, once we practiced evacuating in case of a bomb threat. I, never, in my 5-year-old skin was told what to do if a "bad person" came into my school with guns. Yet, my 5 and 7-year-old proceeded to tell me what they were instructed to do, God-forbid something like this make its way to my small community. Barricading doors and windows, hiding as much of their body as possible, throwing whatever their little arms can pick up if a shooter makes it as far as their room. Creating distractions, running around, yet staying as far away from the shooter as possible. Clearing the shelves of the classroom cabinets to hide in, these are all such awful realities to teach to kids who still sleep with stuffed animals and cry over boo-boos. My little boys have a contingency plan.
My middle-schooler has actual drills where the shooters position is announced over the loudspeaker as they follow protocol for every step the shooter could possibly take. He has a teacher who purchased ratchet straps to secure the door, and roach spray as a form of mace. Instead of buying extra books for the classroom, our teachers are purchasing safety equipment with their own money, all in an attempt to protect their students, my three sons. This is the age we live in.
I asked my boys if these conversations/drills made them feel fearful. Thankfully, they all said no. Their teachers told them this likely wouldn't happen, and they are all still young enough, sheltered enough from thinking that this is life. Their belief in the goodness of others makes this information foreign, unbelievable. I feel the need to occasionally drill them on what they were taught, to keep it fresh in their minds. My sweet little kindergartener told me that he doesn't want to throw stuff at anyone, even if he is trying to protect himself. As he said "God made them too." His innocence, his value of human life, his compassion, it broke me and made me want to scream "No! You do whatever you have to!" But I held my tongue and hugged him and agreed that yes, God did make everyone, but not everyone holds that truth in their heart. I told him that some people are so very hurt that they want to hurt others, and that if he doesn't want to throw things, then he needs to be the best hider in the whole school.
These drills create a hypothetical violence that both my sons and I are uncomfortable with. You're forced to think of yourself first (your own hiding place instead of your friend and classmates) how you could potentially hurt another human being, and the horrible dilemma of jumping from a broken window or staring down the barrel of a gun. While my emotions are erratic when learning about these simple drills, I cannot fathom the horror of experiencing what these communities listed above have survived.
We need to get serious about gun law reforms, and help for the mentally ill. We need more prevention and interventions where troubled kids slide through the cracks. We need to see that while these kinds of changes are necessary, that what we really need is a heart change. We need to be better parents, and neighbors, and mentors, and speak up, whether on a ballet or protest, or seeing a kid being bullied. We need to teach our children to be aware of their surroundings, report any seemingly benign threats, to be hospitable and loving to the kids who need a friend, and maybe, just maybe, we won't have to hear about another shooting on U.S. soil again. Hopefully, for my children and yours, this will only ever be a drill.