On Friday, at 8:26 AM, I should have been sitting behind my desk in first period health class. I should have been struggling to pay attention to a lesson about muscular endurance as I watched the rain roll lazily down the side windows. But at 8:26 AM, I wasn’t. I was sitting in the corner of a classroom covered in an ominous darkness only broken by the artificial light of the hallway. In those first few moments, I heard something I’ve never heard before in our overly populated and bustling school. Complete silence. It was eerie and all together wrong. Almost out of place. It was as if the building itself was holding its breath, afraid to make even the slightest of noise.
Our school was under a lockdown. Only thirty seconds ago, a voice crackled onto the PA system informing us that there was an active shooter inside the school. They are the words every student, teacher, and parent fear. The administration has trained us on how to respond in this situation, but acting on it is a lot different than listening and nodding your head. So, we turned out the lights and crammed into an area away from the door where we remained for the next two hours. By 10:00 AM, my class and I still knew nothing about the world outside our four classroom walls. We were in our own universe, created by whispers and rumors of terrified minds and overactive imaginations. But no less than four minutes later, this universe of ours was shattered as a deafening noise found us bleary eyed and confused. Four heavily protected policeman stormed into our classroom with flashlights and fake weapons, calling out to us, voices raised and tense. With fingers spread and our hands raised, we stumbled out of our classroom, wincing as we stepped out into the brightly lit hall. As I walked, I took note of what was different. It was still my high school, but it wasn’t filled with the faces of my peers. With every step I took, there was a law enforcement official watching me make my way to the gymnasium. The drill was over. We were rescued.
I was not all together thrilled when I found out about my schools plans to hold a realistic intruder drill. I was skeptical. Sure it sounded like a good idea, but overall, there are too many unknown factors that we can’t prepare for. In addition, when the drill officially concluded, it was evident this had only benefited the police and medical officials. While they should be prepared in case of an active intruder, they are not the main players. Those who will play the biggest role in case of a school shooting are the ones who got little, to no, practice in the drill. Teachers and students are going to be the people there from the time it begins, to the time it ends. The police are responsible for rescuing us and neutralizing the threat, they already know how to respond to this situation. However, they won’t be there immediately.
This means, for a period of time, the only protection we will have against an intruder is ourselves. As a student this makes me feel completely unprepared and unsafe. In case of an active shooter, we are told to hide in a corner and turn out the lights. I find this incredibly ineffective because the intruder still knows we’re in the classrooms. The entire student body isn’t going to disappear with the snap of a light switch. Therefore, I think the drill was, if anything, counterproductive. The goal is to protect people, but how can that be accomplished if it’s not focused on the potential victims.
In the future, if another drill were to be conducted on such a large level, it would have to be modified. First of all, the students need to know less about what’s going to happen. My peers and I were told too much information about the intruder drill. We all arrived with our electronics fully charged and the knowledge that we would have a good two hours to sleep. Therefore, we weren’t scared or freaked out. We didn’t react realistically. In the press briefing, the police chief said they were trying to make this drill as life like as possible. But, how can you do that if you don’t have realistic reactions? Most of my classmates were bored and admitted that they could care less about what was going on. In a true school shooting, you would have students calling their parents, crying, and jeopardizing the lives of others. In future drills, students, and teachers, should still know that a drill will be occurring, but their extensive knowledge should be limited. This will allow teachers, and students, a chance to learn how to respond to a crisis within their own classrooms.
In addition, students were told to stay within our classrooms. No one was allowed to leave after they arrived to first period. This is incredibly unrealistic. At a school as big as Central, there are always going to be students, and staff, out roaming the halls. Teachers and administration members should have practiced a plan to round up stray students, staff, and visitors to get them to a safer location. The same goes for students, and anyone else, who may be at lunch, or in a library. How do we ensure the safety of these people?
Finally, I believe our drill should have had more interaction between the police, intruder, and the students. Besides escorting us out of our classrooms, the police did not come in contact with us during those entire two hours. In cases such as Sandy Hook Elementary, what happens if the intruder breaks into a classroom? What if hostages are taken? These are questions that should have been asked, thought out, and planned for during the drill. Every bit of practice makes a difference.
While the thought of an active shooter is terrifying, it’s all together possible. I’m glad that my school is taking the initiative to plan and practice for such an awful event. However, if such a drill occurs in the future, there must be serious modifications in order to make it more realistic. We can’t plan for the unknown, but we can make ourselves as prepared for it as possible.