It was in the middle of second period that a series of beeps rung out from the intercom alerting us that an announcement was soon to follow. A man’s voice filled the sudden silence of my Spanish classroom.
“Teachers and students, please pardon this interruption. In a few minutes, we will be pulling the fire alarm in which you will respond as you do during a fire drill. We have a non-specified bomb threat and will be evacuating the building. In a few minutes, the alarm will sound. Thank you.”
Even after the last sound had diminished from the echoing walls, none of us returned to the day’s task. I turned to my teacher, who sat calmly behind his desk, and constructed a question out of the millions of words that had suddenly plagued my mind. “Is this real?” My class waited, in a silence of the inquisition, that they, themselves, could not voice. The answer itself was scary than being the first to penetrate the silence.
The feelings of dread and anxiety did not overtake me as I sat in my chair processing this information. Instead, I was stricken with irony. No less than two weeks ago, I had been in a similar position as I was now. Then too, there had been an announcement that caused a rowdy class to halt in their tracks. But that was a drill to practice a course of action in case of an active shooter. In all my years of schooling, we’ve had dozens of fire and intruder drills. Yet, we had never had a bomb threat drill. So, yes, the irony was strong and bitter as I scrambled to grab my phone and student ID as the promised ringing of the fire alarm began. All this practice for an active shooter, and instead, we have a bomb threat. What do we do now?
Throughout the next three hours, that question seemed to repeatedly arise as the school population was shifted from the parking lot, to the football stadium, over to the baseball field and finally, to the soccer field. The situation was made worse, considering that the weather was bitter with an approaching winter, and many students were left to stand without jackets, or anything else, to keep themselves warm. By 11 o’clock, when buses began arriving to take students home for the day, we had learned three things.
1) As the police were currently investigating the bomb threat, we were not allowed in the school to get our things until the police had completed their search. If you left your car keys inside, you were out of luck.
2) A majority of us couldn’t feel our hands and feet from the cold, and were becoming desperate for any source of heat.
3) The person who made the threat was still unknown, but had achieved the attention that he or she had wanted.
On the bus ride home, there was chatter and laughter rising with the warmth of the heaters. The stress of the morning had faded, and it almost felt normal. However, it wasn’t. My previous concerns from the conclusion of the intruder drill came back to me, and I realized I had been right. I did not feel safe in my school, and today, was a major indication of that. How much of this preparation and planning really payed off when we needed it to?