When I read the words that my son’s elementary school was on lockdown my heart started beating both faster and slower in the same moment. As I picked up my phone to call my husband, I received the automated alert from the school. Three schools in the area where taking the safety of their student population seriously, as law enforcement searched for persons involved in what started as an auto chase with a stolen car, and had turned into an on foot chase when the individuals abandoned the vehicle.
As I write this, I hope with all my heart that no one will ever have to know this information. I hoped I would never have to know this information. But here I am, sharing with you what I learned the day my son’s elementary school went into lockdown.
Lockdown v. Lock out there is a difference.
A lock out is when the kids are confined to the buildings. They are able to move freely from room to room, but must stay within the building they are in. No one comes in the build and no one goes out. A lockdown is when the doors are locked, lights are out and the students and teachers move out of sight. There is no movement it the classrooms or the building. Everything stops.
Your child knows what to do.
The school has the students practice the intruder drills regularly so that the kids aren’t caught off guard and thrown into a panic. Just like a fire drill, they know what to do and they know what is expected of them during the time. My son had told me since he started school in August, they have practiced several times. They have even practiced safely exiting the school if it became necessary. He tells me about what the rules are during the drill and how he has to act. He is well rehearsed.
You grow a new appreciation for teachers/school administrators.
I was thankful for my son’s teacher before this. She is real down to earth, she’s great at communicating with us, and possesses everything you’d want in your child’s first school teacher. I trust her everyday with my son, she is someone who will help shape him into who he is going to be, but today I trusted her to comfort him and keep him safe from the unknown. I trusted her to be able to hold it together in a moment (long moment) of unknown, something I am thankful I have never had to practice. She had to keep it together for every child in that room that she was responsible for while being in the same boat that I was about her own children.
You’re going to feel helpless.
This is never not going to be a scary situation. We live about 25 minutes from downtown where I work and the school is a stone’s throw from our house. When I learned what was going on, even though I wanted to, I knew I couldn’t go to the school. First and foremost, they wouldn’t let me in as they were in a lockdown and second, I could possibly be putting everyone in even more danger by being an extra body even in the surrounding area. I sat at my desk, and spoke on the phone with my husband about how there was nothing we could do but wait. The news coverage on the incident was limited and varied from source to source, so I was left to fill in the spaces on my own. I texted friends and neighbors, scoured social media and dug up what I could on the unfolding event, and I searched and searched all the local news sites for updates because it was the only way to keep my mind at bay with the fear pumping through my body. It was the only way I could attempt to keep my mind from filling with what ifs.
I am thankful that in the end, after two hours, locked in small room with his entire grade, the lockdown was lifted and everyone was safe. This is not the case in all instances, and it makes my heart ache. For two hours I had no insight as to what was happening, where in the building my son was or what was going on in our town. As a parent I don’t think you can ever truly be prepared for a moment like this, but I hope what I learned helps another parent should they ever find themselves in my shoes (though I hope no one has to wear them).