Like the drops of a leaky faucet, the threats, the shootings, the attacks, the tragedies keep coming at us. It was, thankfully, uneventful, but there was a Bomb Scare that touched my 12-year old at middle school. However, the fact that I use the word “uneventful” is, eventful. How did we get to this place – where a 12-year old, Fun Size, can call you at 11:42 am on a Friday morning, and say, “Mom, can you come and get me? There was a bomb threat at school.”
Surely, this would not have been uneventful if the same conversation occurred in 2002, our nerves still raw, even though the door to such atrocities had already been forever opened. Yet, for the son who could never remember “Sodium” on the periodic chart, the bomb scare saved him during the oral exam when the teacher looked him squarely in the eye and said, “what is Sodium”, seconds before the fire alarm went off.
We all heard the sirens. They came from what sounded like every direction. Yet, uneventful as it was, with kids in three different schools, I immediately texted my sons at the high school – just for reassurance that this was an isolated event. Those high schoolers already knew about it, and yes, isolated.
The email from the principal came first, nonchalantly telling us, in these EXACT words:
Now that things have settled down, I wanted to provide a little more detail regarding this morning’s bomb threat and evacuation.
This morning’s bomb threat and evacuation… can you just take a moment and let those words sink into your consciousness. When I do this, my mind can’t help but to float over the words bomb threat, and lands on the word “evacuation.” This tail-end word is like the happy ending at the end of children’s fairy tale. It’s not just a bomb threat; it’s a bomb threat and evacuation.
My subconscious intuitively knows it is futile to even waste a single second on the words bomb threat. In the 50s students had bomb shelter drills, and yet those faded away. Can we dare hope for such a reprieve from terrorists? Doubtful. We will not re-visit that care-free time, where threats, mass shootings and terrorists are not our reality. (And, we never appreciated that, did we?) They will not know what it means to hold a steak knife for a first class meal on an airplane.
Evacuation. That’s the word that brings us hope. The kids have these drills down pat now. There is the drill where they hide under their desks, the one where they are told to just run as fast as they can away from the building, and of course the old standbys, the tornado and fire drills. And the staff is trained on how to handle the intruder, the missing student, the stabbing and shooter, the kidnapping and the hostage situation. God bless the teachers today.
In this case, the students were evacuated within minutes of the telephoned threat, quietly out of the building to the elementary school where they waited in the warm gymnasium for the police to do their skillful inspection.
The school didn’t want the children to leave after they returned to the deemed-safe building. “This was an option,” said one of my favorite teachers there. “We told the students that if they felt uncomfortable, and needed to talk to a parent, they could use their cell phones. And, if they felt terribly uncomfortable, they were free to have their parent pick them up.”
With the USA/Canada Olympic hockey game starting at noon, I guess, more than half of the children felt “uncomfortable enough to leave.” (Incidentally, the high school boys were texting me simultaneously to find out our ATT U Verse log-in, so they could watch that same hockey game on their smart phones. )
Meanwhile, at the middle school, the students were in the careful, loving hands of teachers, staff and administrators who didn’t lose their cool – but lovingly and quietly modeled for them care, concern and control.
Me? I wanted my kid out of there. Immediately, ASAP. Because stuff does happen, stuff is happening, and a 20 minute search through the school did little to ease my fears — no, not fear — my common grip on the way we are living today, and the stress our kids are under. In my book, if a 12-year old has to live through a bomb scare, he gets a day off school; and his mom gets to spend the rest of the day with him.
At the school, I found the front hallway overloaded with students and staff standing by the door in a trail that streamed through to the gymnasium and the cafeteria. A table was set-up for parents to sign out their children, and I noticed the orchestra teacher there, manning one of the tables. As she visits all three schools, she is a “floater” who happened to just be there at the right time, pulled into service, taking names.
There was, admittedly, a bit of excitement in the air. Saved by the bell, math tests were postponed, homework was not distributed, and the kids were not going to have a full week of school, even though the snow was melting, after all.
Like the drops of a leaky faucet, the threats, the shootings, the attacks, the tragedies keep coming at us. Yet, each one gives us a fresh new chance to exhibit our care, concern and control in the midst of chaos. These are the new weapons for our post 9/11 reality. As shields or armor, we will all need to pick up Fred Roger’s axiom and look for the people helping others, and join them.