Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I Don't Want to Think About This, But...

We had active shooter training on campus a few weeks ago. It was a voluntary program. I couldn't go to the first half of it because Coco got sick and I had to pick her up from school early, but I went to the second day, which was when we actually had role-playing scenarios.

We were all in a classroom. One faculty member acted as the professor, the rest of us were in desks as students. And then the police officers and security personnel doing the training acted like different variations and levels of human threats.

It was terrifying.

Honestly, I thought that I'd go and hopefully learn something, but also slouch in the back and be snarky with a couple of my friends. (Basically the same approach that my students take to class.)

I certainly didn't expect that my adrenaline would shoot up, that my heart would be thumping, that my eyes would be sweeping the secondary-story classroom and wonder how long it would take me to bust open a window with a desk chair (the windows don't open).

At one point, I crouched in a tiny closet, my heart in my throat, listening to the computer-tech guy on campus yell-whisper for all of us to get down because he saw a gun.

During another scenario, we managed to escape the classroom (the goal is ALWAYS to escape--nobody stays alive by crouching down under a desk), but the exercise science professor in front of me paused on the way to the "safe zone" of the stair landing. Fueled by adrenaline, I actually SHOVED her with both hands and yelled at her to run.

When the shooter surprised us by being in the room, one of our "classmates," my instinctive reaction was to vault over a desk--literally, like I put my hands on it and swung my body over it (in wedge heels). And then I wondered about how much my choice of footwear could handicap me in a life-or-death situation.

Afterward, I talked with my colleagues about what we would do if we were in our offices and heard shots in the building. My office door has frosted glass, and my windows open out onto the roof. It's a bit of a drop, but I might try to block my door by shoving over a bookcase and then exit that way because in these big old buildings with plaster walls, it's hard to tell where the shots are coming from. And when people are running in panic, it's hard to know which way to go. I don't want to think about it.

I don't exactly feel safer having taken the training. I'm also not living in fear every time I'm in the front of a classroom. But I do think about door locks and barricades and the fact that the training--which I KNEW was fake--was so freaking scary.

I think about the fact that David's elementary school practices intruder drills and lockdowns. I think about the fact that he's in the front office and would probably try to be a hero. I don't want to think about it.

I think about the fact that Zuzu will be in elementary school in a year and a half. I think about her doing intruder drills. I think about her being scared and away from me. I don't want to think about it.

I think about the fact that Coco's daycare, which has babies from 6 weeks to preschool, has a lockdown drill. I know Coco and her baby-friends are oblivious, but I don't want to think about it.

I don't want to think about these things.

and it just about brought me to my knees.

The thing is, I grew up in a rural community where a lot of people hunt. A lot of people I know (including my immediate family) own guns. David has a shotgun--not loaded--in a case on the top shelf of a storage closet in the basement. My favorite sister-in-law is an avid and responsible hunter. You all know I can't do killing animals, but I've had fun shooting at tin cans balanced on fences. I'm not anti-gun.

(And the people I know who own guns are good citizens who would still be able to purchase them even if such purchases were well-regulated.)

But still. I'm scared of what guns can do. And I'm terrified that the people I love most in this world could become targets for some psychopath's misplaced rage.

I wish I had a solution, but I don't. I am joining the conversation, though. Even though they're talking about things I don't want to think about.


  1. When you said "I'm not anti-gun" it made me think. I don't know how I would classify myself.

    At my core, I do not believe we can rid ourselves of all guns. I do believe there are responsible gun owners out there. But I also know that every single way that gun violence has touched my life personally - in the loss of many acquaintances and one dear, dear friend - none of those have been related to crime. All have been accidental shootings (one an infant, killed by her toddler sibling) or suicides, and all happened simply because there was a gun available. There was an infant in our town who was shot in the arms of her father by a stray hunting bullet fired from over a mile away - how in the hell did it not hit SOMETHING between that hunter and the FRONT DOOR of her house?!? I will never know if the suicides would have occurred anyway, but I'd do anything to replay those odds again.

    Guns terrify me. And the only way to improve our odds at not dying at the hands of one is to not own one. It's a shame that that's the only piece of this miserable puzzle that I can control.

    If you can stomach it, watch this "Good Guy With A Gun" video from the Daily Show:


    1. Oh, the thought of a baby being shot by a stray bullet. And of course that happens in dangerous parts of cities (our city) every day.

      If given the choice between guns as they are now and no guns at all, I'd choose no guns. The counter argument, of course, is that then only bad guys have guns illegally. But that doesn't account for all of the accidental deaths or death by suicide.

      It terrifies me, too.

    2. Kristin and I have identical views on this. I'm pretty sure I can say I'm "anti-gun", but also understand that it's probably irrational to assume that we can eradicate them entirely. My heart just cannot handle the accidents. It happens every single day and often within 25 miles of my house on the south side of Chicago. It's shocking and horrifying and permanent.

  2. This terrifies me as well. I don't live in the US at the moment, but in the Middle East, and supposedly the international schools are a potential target. Shudder...
    My younger daughter is just three months older than Zuzu, and her preschool is part of a big elementary school. They practice lockdowns and "code red" etc. The little ones haven't been told what this is about. Supposedly they are playing "hide and go-seek" with the principal. They won last week -- the principal could not find them. One little guy in my daughter's class suggested that next time the principal should hide and the children should look for her all over the school...

  3. Canadians don't have the same gun culture (or laws) but that is not to say we are immune. Very recently, I was reminded of that fact as there was a school shooting in the next province over. It's sad that these drills need to exist but I hope it provides you with some skills that you never have to use.

  4. Elementary schools, I feel like, are pretty safe. Sandy Hook was an awful exception, but by and large, most school shooters are students and luckily that tends not to be 5th graders. I definitely have given this some thought many many times as I drop Lucas off at the high school for preschool each day though.(And FZS, where he goes and where I went, had a student with a gun and hostage situation but luckily no one hurt when I was in middle school, this was pre-Columbine.)If the preschool room wasn't in the very back of the building with emergency exit doors 20 feet from their room, I don't know if I could bring him. I know they practice but at least when I was teaching the intruder drills were terrible--lock the door and hide in the corner while your potential intruder is practicing this drill with everyone else a couple times a year. I'm glad at least your uni is teaching a plan B, I sure hope the schools are or at least thinking about it. It is horrible to think about. And makes me want to homeschool even if I know it's totally an overreaction. I really hope we can find a house in David's boundary to move, that would make me feel a lot better about the whole kindergarten thing in general.

  5. Not to make light of this, because it's scary and depressing and terrifying, and really freaking important, but you seem to go into fight mode when it comes to fight or flight and that's just who I would want as my kids' professor or the kind of co worker I would want. Wedge heel wearing BA.

    1. Oh, no, friend. I'm all about flight. RUN AWAY!!! Leap over a desk in my wedge heels and get the f*** out of my way because I am fleeing. What's interesting, though, is that at the start of the training, my impulse was to cower in place. Like I could hide under a desk. As though the shooter wouldn't see me if I could just stay completely silent and still. If the training helped with anything, it helped me realize that I needed to focus on getting the heck out of there. (But I'd totally yell at my coworkers and students to do the same, so there's that.)

    2. Although one time I was in Coco's room in the middle of the night and she was fussing and fussing and would not settle down and David came in to offer to rock her and help me out, but I couldn't hear him entering the room (because she was crying so loud) and so he snuck up on me as I was leaning over her crib, patting her back, and I turned around and was so startled to see a man standing there that I literally clawed and slapped him before I could stop myself, even as my logical brain was trying to recognize that it was David. So if my baby is involved, I could definitely fight (like every other mama out there, I'm sure).

      David hasn't repeated that offer to help me rock the baby back to sleep since that night.

  6. I hate to think about this too.

    The high school where I teach had a student with a loaded gun arrested just last week, at the very end of the school day. This was the second time this year it has happened. A gun. Loaded.

    We had this same drill two years ago, when I was pregnant (very early) with Josie. One of the administrators in the room got so into it that he tackled the SWAT team member and had to leave for few minutes to decompress. It was so intense and I can sill remember the sound of the pellet gun through those halls.
    I was seated right up front when our (surprise) still started. The police officer was explaining something and then the next second he was shooting at us. I froze. It was all too real, and it is all too probable.

    I am glad schools are doing more than locking their doors and hiding, but I'm not okay that these drills have to exist, or be thought about, or taught. I think of my sons kindergarten teacher and how she has to practice without scaring anyone, how she has to be serious enough to let them know it's important but not give them nightmares. It's heartbreaking and it makes me sick.

    Hope you're doing okay. Those drills messed me up for a couple weeks to say the least. They definitely made an impact

    1. The drills definitely messed with my head. I agree--I'm glad schools are doing them, and trying to keep our kids safe. I hate that the responsibility seems to rest entirely on our schools and not on legislators who should be enacting laws to keep us safer.

  7. As a teacher, I'd never given the lockdown drills much thought. Working in elementary ed., the majority of the issues are due to parents and custody issues. Rarely is there a sexual offender and even more rare is a killer on the loose. But our school was an outdoor school and my classroom had windows exposed to the public street and a door that opened to sunshine. The front of the school had a gate, but it was rarely locked because the location of classes on the other side prevented good flow. Someone could literally just walk in and around as they pleased. And we'd be up a creek. But as a mom, I think heavily about the implications of those lockdowns and the fear of those children and the real life effects of a Sandy Hook. It's terrifying.

  8. I'm an Australian reader of your blog, and I can't imagine walking around knowing that every second person is probably armed. Scary. Our school kids do lockdown drills, and my older daughters are beginning to realise it could be because there's a 'bad person' in the school. I tend to focus on the non-evil reasons for needing them. Eg there's a snake in the playground (yes, that happened at my kids' school), a helicopter needs to land to lift someone out in a medical emergency so all kids need to be safely locked in classrooms etc. But on the inside I get heart flutters just thinking about it, and make sure the last thing I say to them when dropping off is, "I love you. Take care of each other."