I write about it somewhat frequently. I try and imagine myself to be a steely-eyed veteran of this urban school. I try hard not to be fazed by the events of the day. On Tuesday there was a shooting outside our school. We were on lockdown immediately. Children screamed. Children ran. Children cried.
I was in my classroom with a group of kindergartners. When the announcement came over the PA system, some of them moved via instinct to the floor, away from the windows and doors where I was starting to gather them. Others needed to have the moment impressed on them, and as the moments passed I know that my tone became less gentle and more firm. I had no idea what was going on outside my door. I knew that all these five year olds were my responsibility and the ones popping up hoping to use the computer left vacant by their classmate were not increasing my calm. I tried to couch all my instructions in terms of staying safe, and not telling them that there was danger. But those children who had been paying attention in the first place knew. They were looking to me for answers because they had listened during our drills, and now they wanted to know: Is this practice?
Is there a bad guy out there?
Is there a gun?
What I told them was we were doing just like we practiced in case there was a bad guy. I didn't know if there was a gun. I hoped that if there was a gun that it had gone far away from where we were. Guns and elementary school children are a notoriously bad mix. Not that I said that, because I busied myself with all the song and dance and puppetry I could muster to keep their attention on the cluster of classmates huddled together on the floor.
And the one or two that kept squirming toward the door. Or the window. Naturally curious. And me without a clue about what or where the danger might be.
Until the announcement was made: All Clear. Which came as a release to everyone in the room. In the school. Business as usual could resume. We could once again return to moving our penguin friend across the screen to conquer math concepts. The danger outside was gone.
It took me a few more hours to process all the ways things could have gone wrong. Then I decided to put them away. We were all marked by the experience, but we were going home.