Lockdown Drills.

The Saturday before last, the 8th of December, to be clear, on a drive to a friend’s house, Nathan was telling his father and I about the lockdown drills at school.  When I asked him to explain it to us, he gave us the details of where they hide and the steps they take.  He needs to remember the procedure for the gym and his classroom.  I assume there are procedures for the art room and the library, too.  They are not allowed to talk or move or make any noise.  Then the principal comes around to each room to see if she can tell if kids are in there.

This isn’t the first time he’s told me about the lockdown drills.  He mentioned one earlier in the school year.  When asked why they do these, he said it was in case someone bad gets in the school.  I asked him if this scared him and he told me it didn’t.  I was disturbed the first time it was brought up and I was no less disturbed the second time.  I hate, hate, hate the idea that these are needed.

I took solace in the fact that he’s only in kindergarten.  He’s not at an age when retaliation for bullying is a realistic fear.  I believe, perhaps naively, that the kids in his class and in his grade are probably not dangerously violent.  Even though my maternal instinct always says to keep him by my side, to protect him at all costs so that he is never, ever hurt, I have always known that it’s not possible.  I know I have to send him out into the world and trust that he will come home to me every day.  I believed he was safe.

And then the tragedy in Connecticut happened.  In my head and my heart I know that most of the world wouldn’t do such a thing, but the fact that it could happen, the fact that it did happen, has taken all of my fears and given them a validity that I am not comfortable with.

I read about the teacher who was killed, but not before hiding her children in cabinets and closets.  When I think that it could have been Nathan, scared, shoved into a hiding space while his teacher was murdered a few feet away, I can barely contain my fear and sadness.  What those children saw and heard is unimaginable.

On a regular day, it takes a lot for me to not worry about all the things that could happen and all the ways tragedy could strike.  These are no longer regular days.

After my conversation with Nathan, I had planned a post about the lockdown drills and just didn’t get to writing it last week.  Nathan doesn’t know about what happened in Connecticut and I don’t plan to tell him.  I don’t know if he really is scared about the prospect of a bad person getting in his school and a lockdown being a reality.  Maybe he is just so innocent that he doesn’t understand.  I hope that’s it.  Worry is a burden I don’t want for him.  All too soon he’ll know why they do these drills and I can’t handle the thought of him thinking he’s in danger.

Right now I’m watching him, sitting at his kid-sized table, in his almost-too-small dog jammies, watching SpongeBob and flipping the foil top of a single-serve package of Pringles.  I want to scoop him up and hug him and never let him go.  I know I have to let him go.  I know he needs to live in this world, and so do I, and we have to believe we are safe while being prepared for when we’re not.

I don’t have words to express how sorry I am for the losses of the families of Newtown.  I keep trying to write something that can equal the magnitude of what happened and I realize there is nothing that can be said or written that will do that.  I can’t fathom what they are going through.  

I am heartbroken and angry.  I need to do something.  I can’t sit here any longer, wishing the world was different.  I need to speak out and work for change.  Because I believe we can change things.  I refuse to be afraid and not do something about.

The time for wishing and hoping is over.  Quite frankly, it should have been over a long time ago.

38 Responses to “Lockdown Drills.”

  1. Stacie says:

    Aw. Somehow, Shane )3rd grade) didn’t hear either. We really debated telling him but he’s so scared of bad guys already that we had to gamble he’d not hear. And so far he hasn’t. The world is so ugly in these moments but most everyone is good beyond what we’ve witnessed. I have to believe it.

    • Wow, I’m surprised he didn’t hear at his age. I’m glad if it would have scared him. Nathan is so fearful of so many things, I really don’t want him to know.

      I think you’re right about the good in the world. And it’s too dangerous to think otherwise.

  2. IASoupMama says:

    My second grader and my Kindergartener don’t know, either. My kids practice fire drills and tornado drills and, I’m guessing that a lockdown drill has about the same effect. J do know that when my son was in Kindergarten, his elementary school went onto lockdown because a student hung himself in the high school. My son barely mentioned it.

    • What a scary thing for the kids at your son’s school! They do fire drills at his school and something else he couldn’t remember, but for some reason the fire drill part doesn’t scare me. I mean, sure I worry about fires, but I just assume it would be accidental. Something about the intentional harm makes the drills for it so much worse in my mind.

  3. Vanessa says:

    This is the second time today I’ve read of these school lockdowns. Both times I thought to myself how horrible is the world that we have to drill our children for this. But then I remembered. When I was in grade school we used to have drills for what to do in a nuclear attack, which was to hide under our desks apparently. So yes this is scary, but really our world has always offered up scary, sad, and even tragic with the joy and peace and even triumph.

    • We had fire and something else in elementary school. I think nuclear. Something about not being by the windows in case they were blown in. It sounded preposterous so I wasn’t worried as a kid. With the recent event, it’s hard to see the threat as unlikely since it just happened. I know it’s unlikely to happen again so soon (I hope, at least) but it will be awhile before the shock wears off.

      I agree the world is always a scary place and most of the time I don’t think about it because why worry when it can’t be controlled. But after last week, it’s hard to live in denial right now. At least for me anyway.

  4. my kids are thankfully pretty clueless as well. and i just watch them get on the bus and cry. then i watch them get off the bus and cry again. bad beyond words.

  5. christie says:

    I cannot believe there are lockdown drills. I guess I am grateful they are around, but I simply cannot believe it’s come to this. God bless Nathan and his Pringles.

  6. Bee says:

    We had fire and tornado drills in grade school. It’s so sad that kids need lockdown drills these days. Just so sad.

    • It is sad. I know it’s practical and I appreciate the concern for safety, but it’s still so sad. I think that it’s protection against a calculated act as opposed to a force of nature that makes it seem worse to me.

  7. “I know he needs to live in this world, and so do I, and we have to believe we are safe while being prepared for when we’re not.”

    I love this line so much. I really can’t believe that we live in a world where elementary school kids have to practice lock-down drills. I mean, I guess I am thankful that schools recognize that there is a need for them, and deliver, but I so wish that there wasn’t the need.

  8. Kathleen says:

    I think it’s wonderful that you didn’t tell him. He is far too young to process something like this and not be traumatized by it. My kids know, but they are 11 and 13. There was no way around them knowing. Believe me, I wish there had been.

  9. Robbie K says:

    My 4th grader just found out last night. We haven’t had local tv channels until yday and I have avoided watching anything on tv about it and have been reading about it online. I remember having bomb threats and drills in elementary school. I’ve taught in places where we’ve done earthquake, fire and tornado drills. It’s important to practice & not make it too dramatic or hyped up. In the event of a TRUE emergency the kids will be better prepared.

  10. Dani Ryan says:

    My daughter is only 21 months, and I feel so grateful I still have a while with her before I have to send her to school. But I feel angry that school no longer feels like a safe place for our children and they have to have lock-down drills.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts…

    • Hang on to this time of innocence. I know people say that (and it’s so annoying, right?!) but it does go so fast. Next thing you know they’re in school and the world changes so fast. Thanks for your comment.

  11. Jack says:

    I have had lockdown conversations with my kids before this and I never liked it. Truth is I can’t say I like it less now because it is no more palatable after Newtown than before.

    It just sucks, but I do think about some of the drills we had as kids and how I forgot about them.

    I have fairly vivid memories of people saying Reagan was going to bomb the Russians or that Brezhnev was going to bomb us. Fortunately it didn’t happen, but it doesn’t take much of the edge off, if any.

  12. My twelve year old son has regular lock down drills too. My six year old doesn’t know about what happened in Connecticut and we don’t plan to tell him. I think I’ve hugged him every five minutes since he got home from school on Friday. I’ve hugged my oldest son something like every fifteen minutes; he’s almost a teenager and I get away with what I can.

    The recent events and the current state of our society is heart breaking. What a bizarre, horrible reality that our children have to take part in lock down drills to prepare for a possible school shooting. I guess every generation has something. Our parents had bomb drills or something. Wouldn’t it be glorious if fear didn’t escalate generationally?

  13. Azara says:

    “On a regular day, it takes a lot for me to not worry about all the things that could happen and all the ways tragedy could strike.” Yes. And every time I turn around there’s a new evil to fear. I feel overwhelmed.

  14. Ginny Marie says:

    I think last week must have been a designated week for all schools to have lock down drills. My daughters had a drill, and I’ve read about a lot of other schools having drills too.

  15. Jen says:

    I identify with so much of this. I’ve also been thinking that even though the lockdown drills feel weird and scary, the alternative is far worse. And honestly, I’ve been wishing that my university had some designated procedures: I’ve thought alot this week about what I could/would do if this happened in one of my classrooms, and I’m realizing how much I don’t know, and how much panic and confusion there would be. A lockdown drill seems preferable.

    • I can’t imagine being in a work environment where I have to worry about and coordinate the safety of others. It’s easy to forget that teachers, etc. have to take on that responsibility. Maybe you can get your university to draw up some procedures.

  16. We did LockDown drills at the preschool I worked for before my second son was born, and I sat with four babies in a closet with the blinds down and doors locked. Never, ever did it cross my mind that we would actually need that kind of drill. This past Tuesday, my son’s school was put on an actual lockdown. A parent had threatened to go to the school and say goodbye to his three children and then shoot himself in front of them. Thankfully, he was taken by the police and never got near the school. It’s all so terrifying. And I too, want to shield my son from knowing any of it, no matter how heavy it weighs on my own heart.

  17. Lindsey says:

    My kids do these too. It’s called the intruder drill. There is code yellow and code red. Breaks my heart.

  18. Larks says:

    “I need to speak out and work for change. Because I believe we can change things. I refuse to be afraid and not do something about it.” Yes!

    It’s a horrible tragedy. It’s scary. Things like this happen all the time. And it’s the latter that scares me the most. We’re fully aware that we live in a country with way more mass shootings and individual gun deaths that the rest of the world and yet our response to tragedies like this is often just words. Thoughts and prayers for grieving families are great but we also need to do something.

    • Intellectually I know that crazy, scary things happen all the time. I try not to think about them so that I can get on with my day. It’s the control-freak in me, I deny that which I can’t control. But when it’s so in my face, it’s hard to pretend it isn’t real. Definitely time to stop pretending.

  19. Kianwi says:

    I think kids that age think it’s fun when they do the drills. It’s something different to do, like a game to them. I hope and pray it is only ever a game to him! I would have the desire to keep him with me at all times, too. You can’t, as you said, but man I understand that urge.

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