In her post last Friday, Susan mentioned an incident that occurred at my children’s elementary school on the same day as the Boston Marathon bombings.
Here are the facts, as reported by the Dallas news stations. On the morning of April 15th, 2013, a pregnant woman was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend. The murder occurred a block from an elementary school, which was placed on lockdown until the suspect left the area. He was later located by police, and a long car chase ended back near the crime scene, where the suspect shot a police officer (who lived) and barricaded himself into another house near the school. The school was placed back on lockdown until the end of the day. The suspect was arrested about an hour after school dismissed.
When I returned home after a morning of running errands, I received an automated message that simply informed me the school was on precautionary lockdown due to criminal activity in the area. All children safe and accounted for. I decided to stick close to home until I heard back, but was not particularly worried. Then I received a second automated call. This time the principal’s voice contained a hint of distress. She said the school was again on lockdown as police tried to apprehend a suspect who had shot an officer and barricaded himself into a nearby house. All children were being kept away from windows.
Now I was worried.
While trying to find out what was happening , I learned about the bombings in Boston. What if the guy near the school had explosives and intended to blow up the house, and himself, in close proximity to my babies. He had killed a pregnant woman and tried to kill a cop. This is Texas. His life is over.
I paced as I waited for a third call. It came. Lockdown still in place.
Live web footage showed dozens of cop cars blocking off a familiar street. I knew exactly where they were. If disaster happened, the auditorium side of the school would bear the brunt of it. My second grader’s classroom is uncomfortably close. I prayed she was being kept in the gym.
|Photo by Deborah Downes|
When the lockdown lifted for dismissal it was like driving into a war zone. Police cars everywhere. Checkpoints. Frantic parents approaching on foot only to be turned away. Harried teachers and children standing in organized clumps on the lawn in front of the school. News cameras recorded everything from across the street. They’re like buzzards waiting for carnage, I thought. Thankfully, they got none.
My second grader told me she had spent four-and-a-half hours sitting “criss-cross applesauce” on the floor. She was told to hunch down and stay silent. The kids didn’t know what was going on, only that it was not a drill. She did not want to be left alone when she got home, and her legs hurt from being still so long, but was fine after being assured she’d never been in danger and that the bad guy was in jail.
My sixth grader had it far worse. The murder scene was visible from her classroom window. She chose not to look when she saw police cars surrounding the home, but a few of her classmates reported seeing a bloodied woman being loaded into an ambulance. Worse, those kids knew the woman was the mother of one of their friends, a boy in the next classroom over. He had already lost his father in Iraq.
|Photo by Deborah Downes|
My daughter’s teacher was understandably distraught, likely because the faculty and administration communicated over e-mail. She would have known the woman had died and that police had come to take her son away. Perhaps it was for this reason that my daughter was never told the suspect was not in the building looking for more victims. She was merely told to hide and keep quiet. She claimed never to have been scared for herself. She was frightened for her sister, whom she couldn’t get to. She was scared for her friends, and spent some time considering who in the room she would try to save if the room was invaded. She was most scared for ME, and how I would take it if something happened to her.
Yes, my eleven-year-old would be one of those people running toward the blast in Boston, trying to shield little kids. She would be one of the “helpers” Mr. Rogers mentioned in his now famous quote. I can only aspire to be so selfless, and am both proud of and terrified for her.
She, too, has recovered now other than for concern over the boy who lost his mom.
It will take me a bit longer to be fully okay. I remind myself every day how lucky I am that I can hold my children. That they are alive and whole and that no one had actually intended them harm.
I’m sure this contributed to what on the surface seemed like a rash decision this past weekend. The girls have been begging for about a year now, and I no longer had the will to object to something that shows faith in the future. We have added a six-week-old Boston Terrier to our family. She is deaf, but this only makes her more special to us. Freya is a fearless little girl, an alpha female to our zeta male, Thor. Who could resist this face?
|Photo by Deborah Downes|