Nothing will send fear into a teacher’s heart more than the word “lockdown,” especially after the recent Uvalde massacre. It was a normal Tuesday when one of the aids from another class stuck her head in the door and yelled lockdown.
I thought it was drill because I don’t have a speaker in my room, so I couldn’t hear any announcements. I stuck my head out the door and let her know. “I know, that’s why I told you. Lockdown. This is real.”
I immediately told my student to sit against the safe wall, turned off all the lights, and covered the window in the door with poor Ms. H’s artwork. It’s all I could find in the moments noticed.
Since I had a radio with me, I turned it up, and we could hear the chatter between administrators, behavior specialist, and the police. That lasted for about 5 minutes. Then came the radio silence… the school-wide silence.
My students were quiet and sitting against the wall. I don’t know, but I think they were scared. We sat there in the dark and realized this really wasn’t a drill. All remained quiet, and one of my students took the aids chair, laid it down on the floor and used the back portion for a pillow. He went to sleep.
We continued to sit in silence for 45 minutes, 50 minutes and on. I was getting texts from parents. My wife texted me the news stations report, which was that a gunman had opened fire in a classroom killing a student. When the radio chatter resumed, that was immediately put to rest. There was no gunman or no one shot. But we remained in our rooms while SWAT teams worked their way through the building.
I could hear them making their way toward my end of the hall. I quietly let the class know that we were going to be all right, telling them that what we heard was the police checking everything out.
I stood waiting for them to get to my door. Then it finally opened and there were five officers, all in tactical gear with large guns draping off their shoulders asking me if all was well in the classroom. It was. They shined a light inside on the students and the one aid I had with me.
My other aid had been on her break and was locked away in the break room upstairs. I also had a student who ran an errand for me to the library, where she was locked down as well, but I wouldn’t remember that until the next day, when she told me. I didn’t see her for the rest of the day. You might criticize me for that, and I would gladly take it. But at the time, my mind was on those students and the aid in my room. I could only assume that all other students were locked down safely elsewhere.
The official word slowly worked its way to us, letting us know that there was no gunman, and that we were going to evacuate the building and head to the BASE, an events center next to the school. Parents had gathered there on one side of the great hall, while teachers and students gathered on the other side. Then we began the process of matching up parents and students.
After this went on for an hour, most of the students had found their parents or placed on the appropriate buses and sent home. It was good to be able to pair up my students with the parents, and give a brief “hello.” I had been texting most of them letting them know we were OK, but a parent will never be completely at peace until they see that their own child is fine.
It was a relief to load up the last of my students on the bus for home. We all felt the same way. For a time, we didn’t know that the lockdown was part of a wider hoax in the region. It was only later we found other schools went through the same motions. But you don’t know that when it happens. Coming to the end of the day was a blessing, and we rejoiced.
After loading up the last of my students on a bus, I causally walked around and took pictures of the front of the building. These are part of Cee’s Black & White Challenge: Your Pick.
All photos are copyright © Timothy J. Hammons, 2022.