This post is inspired by my wise friend, Kathleen Harris.
Around lunch time today, a friend came over because her washing machine had broken mid cycle. She borrowed ours to finish her wash. We sat at the kitchen table talking about, appliances, meetings and fundraisers, sports and girl drama. She peeked at her phone and quickly said, “BF is in lockdown.”
Benjamin Franklin Middle School is one of our town’s two middle schools and the one that Caroline attends. I scoured Facebook for signs that this was a drill or a mistake. We spent a very stressful half hour watching Facebook posts come in and listening to helicopters fly overhead. For close to half an hour, it was very unclear what was happening.
Finally, the lockdown was lifted and we received an e-mail from our superintendent. A young boy at the neighboring elementary school believed he saw a man with a gun. He did the right thing and told his teacher at which point all the years of drills became useful. The police were there in minutes and children and staff at two schools ‘sheltered in place’ for fifty minutes.
Fortunately, this was a false alarm. The little boy saw a dad with a cell phone and mistook him for a bad guy with a gun. Our children, teachers, administrators and police did all the right things. The system worked perfectly.
What is not working perfectly is our government. And our gun laws. And those of us who aren’t speaking loudly enough about the state of our country today. What is not working perfectly is the fact that our children are so on alert that a phone can look like a gun. And the fact that hundreds of children spent fifty minutes crouched in a corner or in a closet. And that they were able to do this easily because of the dozens of times they have practiced this to prepare for the worst case scenario.
What is not working is that this could have been so, so much worse. And it was still pretty terrifying.
What is not working is that I am a fixer but I have no idea how to fix this. This is a problem that feels too big. But I know there is something that must be done.
I try to avoid getting too political in this space but we have to do something. I don’t know what but let’s think really hard when we vote the next time. Let’s think about ways to change this. There are gun owners in all the blue countries on the infographic above. And there are people with mental illness in the countries too. The difference between the red and the blue on this infographic lies in gun laws. Let’s change what we can.
Now. Before a very stressful false alarm becomes something much worse.