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The Very Real Threat of Gun Violence in Schools

Yesterday, while sitting at my desk at work, I got the call. The call every parent fears, but never truly expects to get: There was a lockdown at my kids’ high school. In the absence of real information, rumors flew at broadband speed from kids to parents, kids to kids, parents to parents. The scariest rumor, me hearing this 35 miles away in my office, was that there were 3 guys with guns; 2 had been captured, but one was still roaming the school. About an hour after the call, the school superintendent sent an “all safe” email explaining there had been a ‘perceived threat,’ and no violence. Classes would resume. Exhale. The good news is that like all schools in post-Columbine America, there was a protocol in place that had been tested and practiced as they would a fire drill. When the 911 call was made to police, all halls were cleared as students and teacher locked and barricaded classroom doors with desks and tables. Blinds were drawn, lights turned off and everyone huddled silently under furniture while police with automatic weapons drawn swarmed the hallways and campus. I’m way too young to have ‘ducked and covered,’ but the perceived threat of a nuclear attack was real in the 50’s. Of course it’s laughable now to imagine how hiding under a desk could protect anyone from an atomic bomb. But they had to do something, as we have to do something today. And the threat of someone shooting up my school is real in the 2000s. Some kids were terrified and traumatized. They ran from school into the arms of equally distraught parents. And some took it all in stride as if this happens all the time – no worries. When I finally(!) reached my 14-year-old son by text, he was among the blasé. Me: Hey, what’s going on? Him: 2 kids with shotguns came but the police got them. Shots fired. Me: OMG. Are u OK? Him: I’m dead. My son’s callous remark is his way of dealing. The only way he’ll be able to walk into school everyday is by turning this into a joke.  He might not be ready to acknowledge how lucky he is that this was effectively a very successful drill.  But it is not lost on me. I knew this as I lay awake last night turning over and over the events of the day and feeling the pain of other parents from past incidences - and, horribly, probably in the future - whose kids are not laying awake in their beds. It’s unfathomable that in America today, this is the new normal.