The Best Part of the Fire Drill That Wasn’t A Fire Drill

Lightning struck the high school. I learned this while standing in Macy’s basement, where I was buying a boy’s jacket for Homecoming, in the spot where there is no good cell phone reception, and it seemed that at that very second, the cash registers crashed, and all of my texts messages went “undelivered.” But I had spoken to both boys — and they seemed fine, and very pleased about getting out of school.

But the very best part was the voicemail from the school, which eventually came through to my phone, that explained that the kids were dismissed; and once it was safe, they were allowed back in to gather their “belongings” to go home.

It may seem quaint, and old-fashioned — that the staff at the high school told these almost adults, no longer toddlers, to leave things behind and exit the building as quickly as possible. But that’s exactly what they should be doing. We forget, and some of us have never witnessed, what a fire can do — very quickly. The two little boys weren’t born yet, that one fall afternoon when the neighbor’s house caught on fire; and I stood there with my only two toddler sons, as we watched the fire consume that house so quickly.

It was a frightening scene. The fire had a life of its own that grew out of control; a monster of a different kind. The boys had trouble sleeping after that.

It took a few minutes for the scene to register — most of the kids did grab their stuff the first time out (that one toddler who did see that fire years ago, was one of them). But in a world where the grown ups seem to be acting less like grownups, and it’s difficult to find the adults from the kids, it’s nice to see people doing exactly what they should be doing.

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