Safe Zones

One day, when I was teaching in Phoenix, an announcement came over the speaker, "Attention all teachers, the eagle is soaring."

My heart stopped because that was the shit-going-down code word for lock your doors and get away from the windows. Someone was on our campus with a gun. I read it in the faculty handbook, but never in a million years did I expect to hear it actually used. Maybe a drill? Then I saw a group of police officers run by, armed with rifles, wearing bullet proof vests. So....not a drill.

I locked the door and gathered my small group of K-2 special ed students on the carpet. I figured if we were sitting down, we'd be more out of sight. I remember mentally scanning the room, and trying to picture what I would do if a gunman got in. I remember picking up my emergency handbook and scanning it, looking for clues on what I was supposed to do next. It was very vague...wait for the all clear announcement.

We carried on with our lesson - I think - although I went into some kind of robo-teacher mode and can't remember what I said. The kids were game for it, though. Only after the normal dismissal time had come and gone did they ask any questions. And it being a primary level special education class, half the kids were entirely unphased, and a few were under the impression that an eagle was on the loose in the school and had perhaps attacked a student.

I could hear the helicopters overhead, which was actually pretty common in Phoenix - the police used them all the time to look for suspects. This time, though, they were hovering over the school.

The lockdown lasted perhaps an hour. I can't remember the details anymore, but it turned out to just be some criminals on the loose. They had carjacked somebody, or something. No one at our school was hurt. No one came with the intent to hurt us.

It's not the same at all as the school shooting in Connecticut. I can't imagine what it must be like for that community. I don't want to imagine it. When I heard the news break yesterday morning, I couldn't concentrate on my work and ended up sewing covers for my throw pillows all afternoon. Make it go away, my brain seemed to be saying.

I think there should be safe places and dangerous places. With ample signage. And everybody who wants to have a gun and hurt people or wage wars can do so in the clearly marked Danger Zones, and the rest of us can go happily about our business in the Safe Zones.

Wouldn't it be nice?

But there are no safe zones. Anywhere. I'm registering Laurel for preschool right now, and one of the schools we could send her to had a fatal shooting just outside its doors last week. Father dropped kids off at school and was shot in his car on his way out. But that's different, you might think. Obviously drug related, and well, maybe he had it coming to him. And there's no illusion of safety in that particular neighborhood, anyway. Not like Newton, CT. It's supposed to be safe there. Especially in the kindergarten.

I am personally kind of against anyone owning a gun, but in my humble opinion, there's something far beyond gun control that needs to be discussed here. I imagine as details of the shooter's history and motives come out, there were will be plenty o' heated rhetoric in the media. The details will make it not-so-simple. Pundits will shout. There will be press conferences.

In the meantime, compassion, not blame, is in order. Solutions, not finger pointing. Care for all members of community....not isolation or punishment or revenge. And before you think for a second that you have landed someplace safe, where that could never happen, release both that presumption and your need for it. This is not "their" problem...it's all of ours.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Imagine me waiting to hear "exactly where" in Connecticut, as my grandson lives in Connecticut . . . but I didn't know where he went to school at. It was a sick feeling until I reached Logan...and all was well. Thank God!! My heart goes out to the parents of those children AND the teachers.. why, why, why......