Yesterday my kids had a “lock down drill” at their elementary school. This is where they lock the classroom doors, be as quiet as possible, sit on the floor and hide in a corner that’s away from the visibility of the windows and doors and practice what they’re going to do if some madman goes on a rampage through the school. If my source is correct, the last time our school actually did one of these drills is in September of 2011 (shortly after the 11th) way before many of the teachers and all the kids were at this particular school. I think the drill is more for the teacher’s benefit so they’ll know what to do in such a (rare) event. I think they’re probably useful in those regards, but I also think they aren’t without some psychological effects. And when I say psychological effects, I’m not talking anything super lasting and dramatic.. Just, you know.. some slight internalizing fear and that sort of thing. I actually happened to be in the building at the time since I was working on stuff I have to do for a PTO fundraiser, so I got a chance to see everything first hand.
I was in the Library, so myself along with a handful of other staff and a handful of kids had to huddle in the corner of the library for probably at least ten minutes or more. As this was going on, the Vice Principle went around and checked the building and tugged on every room’s door handle to make sure they were locked and everyone was participating properly.
At the time the kids in the particular room that I was in stayed quiet and didn’t really have much of an immediate reaction. I’m not sure if they had questions or a reaction after they processed it, but I know that my two kids and a few others I saw in the halls or outside did. In the room that I was in, the adults had more of an immediate emotional reaction because they had in their minds a fuller scope of what they were actually practicing for. One adult said to me, “this is what those kids were doing at Sandy Hook that day.” This brought out an emotional realization for her and others as well. Another said that even though she knew it was a drill, her heart skipped a beat when the Vice Principal pulled on the door handle. Even thought they knew it was just a drill, it brought out that subconscious fear that something was really happening. I also heard several teachers or staff mention the fear they felt as having to be the one, for example, who had to go out into the hallway to check the bathrooms for kids, knowing they’d be exposed in the line of possible fire. Another mentioned being the first doorway in the building. That theoretically they’d be the first target in such an event. The what-ifs and thinking about what sort of part they might play in an attack on their school.
As I was leaving the building one of my son’s classmates said to me, “Don’t worry [my son] was okay.” And later on that evening, my kid’s said they had to hide somewhere to “be safe,” and mentioned similar other words about being kept safe and hiding. Since this sort of thing was foreign to them, and even though they were told by their teachers and their parent’s that this was just a drill (the same knowledge or even slightly less knowledge that the adults had that said their hearts skipped a beat), I’m not sure they were clear on the fact that they were never not safe. Which is this sort of necessary evil that we have to put our kids through the feeling of, I’m not safe, in order to practice these drills. One kid mentioned, “I know this was a drill, but if it happens again, I know it’ll be real and I will be scared.” I tried to explain that these are just like fire drills and the school will be practicing them every now and then, and that he would always be safe. It’s so hard to know what to say to kids, and even hard as adults to think about the what-ifs, even if these types of incidents are quite rare that would make these drills necessary.