This being the last day of March, and the last day of the Slice of Life Story Challenge, I had planned on doing a nice, sweet, little recap or reflection for my final post. That is what I did last year, and the year before.
But then we had a lockdown drill today, while I was working in a kindergarten classroom.
It has been on my mind all day long.
From the moment I knew that it was going to happen I started to shake and couldn’t concentrate.
I hate lockdown drills.
You see, I used to teach fifth grade in Newtown. It was many years ago. And it was at the school down the road from Sandy Hook. And I only knew one of the people who died.
I’ve never written about it. I don’t talk about it much. I’ve always felt it wasn’t my story to tell. I’ve always felt that it has stuck with me a little more than it should have. A little more than is probably healthy.
But that doesn’t seem to matter on the day of a lockdown drill.
The images from the news, the familiar names of the deceased, my own imagined sound of gunshots still haunt me.
I read that the kids thought that somebody was throwing desks at a wall in the hallway.
I read that the teachers threw themselves in front of the children.
And there we were, me, another teacher, and a class full of five year olds, miles away, years later, hiding in the coat closet. Crouching in the dark. As if that would save us.
There were were, hiding in the closet, listening to the rattle of doorknobs as well-intentioned adults checked to see if all was as it should be.
“I think I hear something for real,” whispered L. with real fear in his tiny voice and a ripple of equal fear washed over me.
“It’s okay. We’re just practicing. Nothing bad is happening,” I whispered back, in my own tiny voice.
We heard footsteps in the hall. More doorknobs rattling.
I thought about a story I read, about how adults in one school building actually dressed in costume and pretended to be real shooters, as part of a lockdown drill. Another story I read about a teacher, like me, doing a lockdown like me, only it lasted for thirteen minutes, and how in those thirteen minutes she began to believe that they really were all going to die.
And finally a voice said, “All clear,” and I practically jumped to switch on the lights.
The children stood up and stretched. Then one by one they started to talk.
“That was scary.”
“I thought something was really going to happen.”
“Why do we have to do that?”
“Ms. Moore, I was scared and I thought I was going to cry.”
My hands shaking, my ears ringing, I was speechless. All I could think was Me too kiddos, me too.