Wednesday tends to be a busy workday for me, but I signed myself up to help with the Scholastic Book Fair at the middle school. I love books, of course, and they were a little bit desperate for help, and I know that I’m one of the few potential helpers who has a flexible schedule. So I headed there at about lunch time to babysit the cash box in the library’s makeshift bookstore, relieving a friend who was finishing up her shift. She was updating me on my duties when her daughter came up to the library. A note had been found, she said. They were reporting it to the principal now. Everyone in the cafeteria was talking about how we were likely to go on lockdown within minutes. My friend and I looked at each other. We didn’t want to get locked in. My friend had just said she was starving for lunch, and we both had full work days that we needed to resume, especially if no kids were going to be permitted to look at books, anyway. Then we thought: could we get our kids out?
While the school coped with the crisis, what followed was some quick crisis management of our own. I asked my friend’s daughter to find J and alert her that we were going to try to break the girls out. J showed up quickly, got my update, and ran for her locker. She was super-efficient and clearly stressed out. But here’s the thing: we were all stressed, but I don’t think that any of us actually thought that there was a shooter or a bomb in or around the school building. For me, it didn’t even occur to me that there might actually be any real danger. I was worried about the lockdown itself. We headed to the office, where activity was pretty frenetic, and I just put all of our names in the student sign-out book, which is the usual procedure. I paused for a moment, not wanting to interrupt, but wondering if I was indeed allowed to leave. And then I realized that everyone was far too easy, and in this situation it would be better to ask for forgiveness than permission. My friend, meanwhile, hadn’t managed to corral her daughters. They were already locked in. I hesitated about 4 seconds before pushing J out the door. As I was headed out, the first police car arrived. A small group of special needs kids and their attendants were about to return from a walk around the block. I told J to keep walking away from the school so she was in the clear, but then I doubled back to see if there was anything I could do to help my friend. Already I wasn’t allowed back in the building, but we called to each other through the entryway, and my friend said that someone was going to release the girls to her. I hustled out and to J, and we briskly walked away from the scene of the crime.
Once we got into our house, we both took a breath and went in for a long hug. J said to me what I’d been thinking: that she hadn’t been afraid of a shooting or a bomb, but she was very afraid of being locked into school for hours, peeing in a trash can, and getting patted down by police. I took her to get an acai bowl at Raw.
About an hour and a half later, we got word from the district that they were going back to a “normal” school day just as we were planning to run an errand. Did J want to go back to school? Yes, but only if things had calmed down. We decided to get in the car and stop by the middle school to assess the situation and decide. When we got there, there were still plenty of police cars, including K-9 units, along with some stressed-out parents hanging around. I parked right by the main door and started to go in to just ask the office staff if I should bring her back or stay away. But the entry was filled with parents who were insisting that they needed their children out immediately, and the staff seemed reluctant to even open the door. I retreated. Then I realized that the exit was still blocked by the cops. I ended up backing way the heck back in order to escape the driveway I’d unwittingly trapped us in. We decided to blow it off and head to Target.
That night, the district held a forum that was pretty much all-around awful. Some parents clearly believed that we should not question district staff or the police in any way and we should just be glad that our children are alive. Some parents clearly believed that their children had been deeply traumatized by the way the lockdown was handled. I’d presume that many parents fall somewhere between these extremes, as I do. Several parents and students were overwrought and literally shouting or screaming, and the meeting organizers, in my opinion, seemed more focused on defending themselves than offering the kind of calm, measured reassurance that might have dialed the emotions down. One of the particular low points was when a high school student ran down the center aisles yelling swear words. Yes, that behavior was inappropriate, but she was clearly distraught, and it would have been nice if there had been a school social worker or other district staff member to respond to her individually. From what I could see, the principal and superintendent didn’t even interact with her, and it was the police officer who was talking to her quietly. The superintendent declared the meeting over early as three parents in different locations around the auditorium yelled at each other. The meeting was covered all over the news, and it’s pretty much an embarrassment.
So, Wednesday was discouraging. Then on Friday, M got her wisdom teeth (all 4!) extracted. More on that later, but for those keeping score, that means that in the space of one week, M experienced: one car accident, four days without a phone, four soccer games, seven athletic practices, two quizzes and a test, a lengthy lockdown with trashcan-peeing, and a wisdom tooth extraction. Poor thing! That’s a long week.