We had a lock down drill at school yesterday, as part of our pre-semester workshop day. Until I started teaching at this community college, I'd never even heard of a lock down drill, but it seems most places are doing them now, or thinking about doing them. The drill involves procedures to be followed in case of a violent person or persons inside the college, or in case of imminent danger outside the college, like an ammonia leak or some such thing. Mostly, we focus on the idea of a person with a weapon. Lock down drills are like tornado drills: you hope it never ever needs to happen, but if it does, you wanna know what to do.
The first time we did this, about 2 years ago, I had nightmares for two weeks. This safe place, this building with wide, sprawling hallways where I love coming to work, looked very different in light of a lockdown. I was really frightened by the whole process. It contributed to last spring's stressful month for me, certainly. What would have been a significant annoyance in the past was, last year, petrifying for me.
As part of yesterday's training, we watched some surveillance video from the Columbine shooting. It included audio from at least one (maybe 2 or 3?) of the 911 calls. The police officers told us it was hard to watch, and said we were welcome to leave if we didn't want to see it, but like so many of us, I know the story of Columbine. I had not seen the footage, but I knew what happened there, and I didn't expect to be that surprised.
I was wrong. The screams of the students, the coldness of the shooters, and the vulnerability of it all combined to make my skin hurt with grief. I cried through the whole video. I cried for the victims, and for the survivors (who must have the most profound wounds from this), and for the two boys who made all those bombs and carried all those guns into the school. In photographs, their faces are as open, young, and hopeful as my own students.
I look in the faces of my students every day. I see who they are, and I am not afraid. But if one of them crumbles, somehow, and wants to hurt me or someone else (anyone else?), they will likely be able to do that. Hopefully my colleagues and I know enough now to help minimize damage. Hopefully.
Chaos abides. We each find our own ways to keep it at bay. But to despair in the chaos, to be paralyzed by it, is no life at all.