Thursday, October 23, 2008


Something interesting happened on Tuesday. My child’s school’s campus was put on lockdown. For about an hour and fifteen minutes all the students and teachers were locked in their classrooms with the lights off and the shades closed. The students, at least in my child’s classroom, remained under their tables (four to a table) and were told to be quiet.

The police searched each and every classroom, with weapons drawn, as well as the perimeter of the campus. Two police helicopters searched from above. The media showed up, en masse. (Surprise!) They found nothing.

My co-blogger Jacquie was the first one to alert me to the lockdown situation, as she works nearby and heard the helicopters overhead announcing that they were looking for a white male. Because she works on a college campus, public safety was able to let her know that the nearby elementary school was on lockdown.

My response to her email was: “Yikes! I think they just practiced the lockdown drill last week. Good time, if there is such a thing.”

I was not overly concerned.

Almost right away Jacquie sent another email with a link to a local news blog saying the lockdown had been lifted.

It was when reading this information that I began to realize that perhaps there was some reason for concern. A man with a gun on the corner outside her school? Um, that could end badly. Really badly.

From the information I’ve since received from the school, via an automated call by the vice principal after the lockdown was lifted Tuesday and a long email with more details about the incident Wednesday morning, it sounds as though both the police and school officials did an excellent job. It sounds like every precaution was taken.

I don’t think my child was really ever in any danger. But it turns out I’ll never really know.

According to SDPD Detective Gary Hassen, the lockdown was called because the police received a call from someone in the area who said that they saw a man with short dark hair and a gun in his hand about a block from the school shortly before 10 a.m. They acted on this information, as they should have.

“The one piece that I don't understand is...what happens next? …So...what happens tomorrow? Did they find the guy, or did they figure out that the call was a hoax, or...what?” implored one school parent on the PTO listserve. And she has a point. If there was a mad gunman yesterday, who's to say that he won’t come back again?

But here’s the thing. You can’t live life that way. It’s too short. Everyday you open yourself up to the possibility of something terrible happening. Every time you pull out of your driveway, step off the curb, get the flu, or eat that spinach salad. And sometimes terrible things do happen. But what are you going to do? Live in fear? All the time?

Yes, yes, Bush would commend you for it; but instead of listening to that jackass and his cronies, we’d do better to view the world from the eyes of a child.

Here’s how my daughter reacted to Tuesday’s lockdown.

When I asked her if anything special happened when I picked her up (because it was not what she was focused on when I picked her up), she thought really hard for a moment and said.

A: “Oh, something that wasn’t planned?”

Me: “Yeah, something unplanned that happened today.”

A: “You mean the tornado?”

Me: “There wasn’t a tornado, was there?

A: “I mean the earthquake.”

Me: “Was there an earthquake?”

A: “I mean the fire or whatever made us miss PE.”

Me: “Yeah, that. What was that?”

A: “All I know is that we were walking out for PE and a lady came running at us going like this (as she waves both her hands back and forth over her head) telling us to get back in our classroom.”

Me: “So you missed PE and had to stay in your classroom?”

A: “Yeah under our tables.”

Me: “Under your tables??? The whole time???” (I did not know that.)

A: “Yeah, and we hadda be quiet too. For like two hours.”

Me: “Wow. What was that like?”

A: “Boring, but at least we got outta work.”

Me: “Good thing no one had to go to the bathroom.”

A: “They did.”

Me: “They had to hold it, huh?”

A: “No, Tommy and Keith (not their real names) went in a cup. And Keith’s cup overflowed.” (We then went off on a short tangent about how this is one area where boys have the advantage, but that’s a story for another day.)

Me: “Wow. Did anything else happen? Did you see the police?”

A: "Yeah. They came in our room with their guns.”

Me: “Their guns were out?” (I did not know that either.)

A: “Yeah and they told us to be calm and stay quiet and that everything was okay.”

Me: “Huh. Anything else?”

A: “I kept hitting my head on the bottom of the table. Oh, and we gotta go to lunch right after. No morning reading work at all.”

So there you have it. Something unplanned happened at school that day. It was a tornado that involved missing PE, sitting in the dark under a table, seeing the police with their guns, hearing classmates pee in a cup, and the bumping of heads. But lunch followed immediately after and there was no morning literacy block. All in all not that bad.

Don’t get me wrong. I hope it never happens again. We all know it only takes one crazy with a gun to change a whole lot of lives. But life is a crap shoot. And when else are you going to get to pee in a cup in class?


Me, You, or Ellie said...

I love that girl.

But I hate bad guys who wave guns near elementary schools.


Nancy said...

I remember the sick-twisted feeling in my stomach when that happened at my daughters high school.

Cops, helicopters, the line up of ambulances. LINE UP!

A suicidal kid with a gun.

No one was hurt, not even him.


Glad your child's school responded the way it did.

NucMEd is Hot said...

I want to view life with your daughters eyes.

Being grown up stinks.

Glad everyhting was OK

Unknown said...

Wow, it's good that they respond that way. It's sad that there's a need to though.

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Wow! Lockdown! Sorry, I don't mean to make light of it, I just really really love to say Lockdown. And I love you having to pull the story out of your girl. You'd think that guns and a "lady" waving her arms madly over her head and public urination would have been right there in the front of her mind.


Anonymous said...


Sometimes it's best to be clueless of all the details, isn't it?

Aunt Becky said...

Wow. Just wow. I like the way you handled it. You're a non-alarmist like me.

Kathi D said...

It is an interesting life, isn't it?

When I was in first and second grade, we had air raid drills. The window shades were all pulled so the room was dark, we all got under our desks, an air raid siren sounded, and then someone walked by outside (I guess this is how they did it?) shining a big red light outside as if there was an explosion.

I don't remember this with any fear, just as something we did. When I think about it now, it seems hilarious to think that we were hiding under our desks to escape a nuclear bomb outside the window. But then, nothing.

Kids are great. We need to learn from them.

Me, You, or Ellie said...

I love that girl too, and don’t like bad guys with guns either. Not one bit. And as an adult living in a violent nation, it’s easy to get that sick-twisted feeling in your stomach when there is even the potential for violence. Especially if it involves your kids.

But if you take a second to view the world through a child’s eyes, to just experience what is actually happening, instead of projecting about what could happen, there’s often no need to panic.

Sometimes it is best to be clueless of the details, but maybe what’s really best in some situations is to be clueless to the fear. Nothing bad happened Tuesday. Certain things were out of the ordinary, sure, but they weren’t necessarily bad or negative for the students.

I don’t think children are alarmists by nature, and I sure as hell don’t want to be one.

And, Ellie, I’m with you. I love to say lockdown too.


Kat said...

Kids amazingly take everything in stride. Glad nothing bad happened and that she didn't really realize that something bad could have happened.

Anonymous said...

Eyes of a child.

And the school should be commended for the fact that the kids did not panic.