The horrific day at Columbine happened 23 years ago on this date. I was a senior in high school at the time and remember how frightening it was because this could have happened at the school I’m at right now.
The headmaster called a special assembly the next morning to discuss the horrific events. I remember how quiet that assembly was. We had assemblies every Monday in the gym to go over weekly events and happenings in the school. They were usually loud and full or laughs and smiles but this meeting was very different. I think we were all trying to process how something so horrific and unimaginable could happen to kids just like us in Colorado.
I remember some area high schools had multiple bomb threats following Columbine, which of course had to be taken seriously. When would schools feel safe again?
What is even more scary is that this was the first of what seemed to become many school shootings across the country. Mass shootings have become so common they are barely news stories anymore which is terrible. The shootings have become so normal we are desensitized to the horror and violence of this. They are no longer a big deal which is frightening.
Elementary schools now practice lockdown drills. I happened to be volunteering at my son’s school when he was in kindergarten when there was one and it’s scary. In this case there was a medical issue that caused it. But I could tell by the teacher’s reaction that it was not planned and she looked nervous. Chase said the drills are for done for when there’s something scary or bad and they need to stay in the classroom. I can’t imagine how kids that age can process this.
I actually came up with potential hiding places for when I was teaching at Mercer if there was a lockdown or shooter on campus. It’s scary to think of but with a few storage closets around, I may have been able to get my classes hidden and locked.
One class I was teaching in fall of 2017 was in the AD Building. All of a sudden the power went out. The professor across the hall checked in and looked nervous because the doors in the hallway by our classrooms locked. She told me that never happened before in all her years of teaching and we may be in a lockdown. This was a few days after the mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas so I think shootings were on everyone’s minds.
I tried to stay calm for the class but grabbed my phone and texted Chris we may be in lockdown and I love him and the kids. I was scared.
It turns out power was out in the entire building and the doors are magnetic. They automatically close when the power goes out. We weren’t in a lockdown and the power came back on after about ten minutes, ten terrifying minutes.
I had another odd false shooting situation at my first job at The Lawrenceville School. My cousin who worked at Hun called me and asked if I was ok as they heard Lawrenceville was in a lockdown. I said yes we didn’t hear that but we are ok and thanks for checking on me.
Turns on the school was in a lockdown and I guess our building was one of the last to find out! A student in one of the dorms on campus was pointing a BB gun at a squirrel which frightened students and promoted the lockdown. He was doing this from a dorm window so it did look like a student aiming a gun. This happened shortly after the Virginia Tech shooting, another time when much of our nation was on edge following that tragedy.
I took an Incident Training course through Mercer several years ago that went over emergency scenarios. It was very informative but also scary to consider. Our campus is so open and easily accessible how could we ever lock it down? We are open to the community through field rentals, theater use, pool rentals, fitness center and pool memberships. How could we prevent all these non-students from coming on campus in the event of a lockdown? How could everyone on campus be accounted for? It definitely left me with a lot to consider.
It was helpful as I have to go over emergency meeting areas and protocols with my lifeguards and staff. It’s also something I consider in the event we need to evacuate the facility. Fortunately we have only had to get members out of the pool due to lightning, which is never an easy process because many want to keep swimming. Thankfully we have not had a real emergency to test our policies.
I’ve said in other posts you need to try to find humor in things especially with scary or negative things. When I was the Admin Assistant for the Athletic Department, my desk was right by the entrance to the Athletic office and had two windows that could see into our office. Mercer used to have these anti-lock magnets in the door. If a shooter came you were supposed to remove this. When our trainer and I were talking about this we joked that I’m f**d if we ever have a shooter come based on where I sit. Not funny but probably true and again we joked because it was serious, scary topic and we wanted to lighten it up. Once I changed jobs I finally got my own office which is a lot easier to hide in! (Far from the only benefit of my own office but that’s for another day or blog!)
My point of sharing these incidents is that shootings are part of society now. I feel like Columbine marked the start of what has become a way too common occurrence now in the US, one that barely phases us now when there is a mass shooting. How many of you heard about the shooting at a party at an Airbnb in Las Vegas over the weekend?
I had scary situations at both Lawrenceville and Mercer that fortunately were not shootings but for a period of time I thought they could be. It’s terrifying and made me sympathize even more with anyone who was ever involved in one. It’s sad that starting in kindergarten students are already prepped for lockdowns but this is the world we live in now. I just hope these drills are simply practice and something we never have to really worry about.