Get Down and Stay Silent: Safety Throughout our School

Erich Finch The recent tragedies such as the assault on Sandy Hook Elementary have sent a chilling shock wave through out all levels of society. We have our government debating over the legitimacy of the second amendment, parents worrying about sending their children to school, and our own Latin community practicing and preparing for emergency situations. Sandy Hook was not the first school massacre in our lives, however, and the recent lockdown drill was not my first. I first heard the term school shooting used describing the Virginia Tech Massacre back in 2007, when the death toll was five more than Sandy Hook. I heard of other attacks, just nothing on a school. It happened during the later half of my fifth grade year were I was at some level of adult maturity. I did not think about why someone would do something horrible, I just thought of it as another news story that had no effect on my life. Later that week however, I got my first taste of what a lockdown would feel like. I was in Ms. Wilson’s P.E. class on the fifth floor gym. We all got to class but instead of doing warm up relay races we were told to line up next to the equipment closet. Slowly, we marched in as Ms. Wilson locked the door behind us. Although the closet was well lit and managed to fit everyone somewhat comfortably, we didn’t really know what was going on. As Ms. Wilson walked over to show us the emergency supplies cabinet by the basketballs, she told us that this is what would do if there was someone we did not want there in the gym. I did not realize that “that someone” was supposed to mean a gunman. I just wanted to get out of the closet and start gym class. I later learned that was a lockdown, and I would encounter many more throughout middle school. Middle School lockdowns almost seemed entertaining to us. We actually hoped that we would be stuck in the hallways when the siren went off so we could run into the bathroom and hide from the shooter. It was not until the most recent lockdown that I actually felt something other than anger or annoyance when I heard the siren. I jumped over my desk to lower the blinds while everyone took my place in the back of the room. I went for the other windows, but I saw that someone else had lowered them. As I went to the back to join everyone I tripped over a backpack, and someone told me “STOP IT! Why are you so clumsy?” I didn’t feel like saying anything as the teacher locked the door and told us to get quiet. We sat in the back row for ten minutes, but it felt like much longer than that. I did not feel afraid for myself, I just imagined myself as a teacher having to watch over a group of children. I imagined not knowing if it was a drill or not and trying to answer questions from third graders about what was going on. Those at Sandy Hook had practiced emergency situations like we do, and still almost thirty people died when an attacker came to their school. I do not know why I imagined myself as a teacher or why I was worried we would never leave that room. I think of how hard it was to stay that silent for ten minutes, or however long it would for policemen to arrive. But as the drill went on I saw my own English teacher sit by the door and smiling at us about how serious we were all taking the drill. Not a “Gosh I’m proud smile” more like a “Calm down guys, it’s just a drill” smile. I guess that worked because everyone around me was checking instagram and twitter In short, I think that if a gunman came to Latin with intentions of hurting someone, we would be as prepared as we could be. There is not much more we can do than sit down and stay silent. That’s what scares me more than anything—knowing how powerless we all really are. Although, according to the US Department of Education and Safety, the odds of being killed in a school shooting are about 1 in 3 million, I still feel that we have a responsibility to practice lockdown procedures and encourage a strict sign in policy. We owe to anyone who has been affected by school shootings. Illinois has had 19 shootings since 1992, three of those 19 involved one or more fatalities. None of those three occurred in Chicago. Lockdown drills should be taken seriously. Even though the odds of someone coming to harm the community are really low, it always good to take precautions.]]>