I sat in the back row of the school board room with my principal as we listened to the presenter reiterate all the salient power points of her presentation. We were there to be trained for disaster. What would you do if there was an eight point five earthquake while you were at school? Did you know that, according to California Government Code Section 3100, "all public employees are hereby declared to be disaster service workers subject to such disaster service
activities as may be assigned to them by their superiors or by law." Oh joy. We thought about how fun it would be to spend up to seventy-two hours with the kids as our school collapses around us.
There was one slide in the presentation that evoked a very visceral reaction in me: "What are our vulnerabilities?" There were pictures of fires, winter storms, and a map of all the fault lines that criss-cross the bay area. Those didn't make me nervous. I have a pretty solid acceptance of the random acts of nature. The photo that set me on edge was a still frame from the video camera in the cafeteria of Columbine High School that bore the heading "Domestic Terrorism." I felt my stomach turn as I remembered that day, seven years ago.
I've been a teacher for nine years, and I have always joked that I feel safe from being shot working in an elementary school. "If they miss with the first few shots, they don't have the manual dexterity at that age to reload, so I think I'll be okay," goes my standard line. Truth is, I was told a month or so ago that a kid in my class had brought a gun to school. Knowing the kid, it made some angry sense, given his general disposition. I didn't panic, but I could feel every pore working and every muscle twitching as I hurried to get the rest of the students out of the room so I could find out what was really going on. It turned out to be a toy gun, made of plastic, not even very realistic. But for a moment, I had all the sensations of a disaster service worker. "What if?"
I can plan for a power outage. I can organize search and rescue. I can manage crowds of people. I'm not sure I'm ready for confronting disturbed youth with loaded weapons. I guess I'll have to study up on that.