One hour later…
A new email vibrated my phone. “The police are checking the campus. They will come to your room. You must open the door.”
Are you kidding me? Open the door to what? The curtain is enough of a false sense of security – I don’t want to open anything. We’re safe here, in the dark, on the floor. They’re quiet. They have their games on their phones and cards and chess and they’re not making a sound…and they feel ok. They trust me.
I knew my room would be the first one checked. Whispering a warning to the class, I softly stepped around bodies and bags and board games. I’d done everything I could to take their minds off of the fear. Now I had to open up to the outside.
The knock came as predicted, and I pushed open the door. He stood there, in full gear, gun drawn. “Are you ok? Is everyone here?” The words wouldn’t come. I was fixated on the one behind him, holding the bigger gun. “Yyyyyes, we’re here. We’re ok.” I looked down at the boys at my feet. Their eyes were wide open, taking it all in. I had no idea they would be able to see all this. I’m sure, like me, they’ve never been that close to a gun.
I closed the door and quickly locked it from the inside, hanging the lanyard around my neck. My breath came rapidly. Hold it together. You are safe. Cameron is safe. You can do this. I was responsible for these children. This was real.
Creeping back to my spot, reassuring students as I went past, I felt the tone change around me. They knew this wasn’t a drill. They knew something bad was happening. I prayed they couldn’t sense my nervousness. We could hear the officers banging on each door in the building, and then silence.
That was a good thing.
Two hours later…
The beanbag chair saved me. I didn’t realize how sore I could get sitting cross-legged for two hours on the floor. My mind raced as I tried to figure out how I could make a toilet – I knew that would come soon. My phone flashed with messages from my sisters, sending me news reports to supplement the little information we had on the inside. I knew the kids had their phones, but the darkness kept me from doing much. If I was their parent, I would want to know they were safe. I stayed silent.
The emails were coming every 30 minutes or so. “Stay calm. We are safe. We will keep you posted” were words of comfort, but I couldn’t help wonder if everyone else was ok. The stillness was frightening.
Suddenly, the intercom crackled to life. “The lock down is over. Please remain in your rooms until 3:15 dismissal.”
We’re safe. It’s over. I’m still not unlocking the door. What happened? Did anyone get hurt? Where is Cam?
We stood up, our bodies creaking and peeling ourselves out of our hiding places. With the lights on, I could finally see their eyes – now with a glint of relief, of anticipation, with question. Slowly, the kids hugged and gathered their sweatshirts and lunchboxes strewn around the room. We stretched and pushed the desks back and tried to make it feel normal, like any other Friday afternoon. Fifteen more minutes together. We could do this.
We did do this. We are safe. We did made it. They will see their parents, hug them and collapse into their arms.
It wasn’t our time.
photo credit: Campus police… via photopin (license)