Friday February 8 2013 959 am
It’s Tuesday night, and we’ve just finished our family dinner. We begin to clear dishes and rinse off plates as we chat about this and that.
Eleven-year-old “Jack” contributes a school-related topic. “On Friday, we’re going to have a combination lockdown drill and fire drill. And they told us that if that happens, we should listen to the lockdown drill, and only leave the building if we actually smell smoke.”
In less time than it would take to say, Holy crap, what kind of a world are we living in?, my mind runs through the implications of this information. But all I manage to sputter aloud is, “Um, what?”
“If we get both alarms, we only leave the building if we smell smoke. Otherwise, we listen to the lockdown.”
“So we’ll be safe because if there’s smoke, we’ll leave,” pipes up seven-year-old “Emmie,” who attends the elementary school.
The seven-year-old is familiar with this procedure, too.
“Yeah, unless a crazy guy sets the school on fire to get us to go outside,” says Jack.
“Hmm,” says Emmie.
The two of them are discussing this in the same matter-of-fact tone they use to discuss the constitution of their breakfasts. I, on the other hand, am so unnerved by their casual conversation that I have to leave the room momentarily and chase from my mind the images that have been present there since Jack’s introduction of the topic. The crazy-guy-pulls-a-fire-alarm scenario. A mistaken lockdown alarm resulting in a too-late attempt to escape a fire. Bodies.
Come on, mom, pull it together.
I suppose I should be grateful that my children are not terrified by what goes on around them. I should be–and am–thankful that my children’s schools are clearly handling security in a manner that prepares the kids for various, unthinkable events without scaring the hell out of them.
But the fact that my children are growing up in a world where their schools have to devise plans of action in which they and/or their teachers have to choose between evils, where horrors aren’t unthinkable–for this I am not grateful at all. I’m appalled, and sad.
I reassure myself by thinking of all the school fire drills and bus escape drills I went through as a kid that were never needed. Here’s hoping and praying that the increasingly creative preparation enacted by all of our kids’ schools is never called upon in a crisis.
And here’s also hoping that our kids continue to handle these situations with all of the peace of mind their youth deserves. We can help by staying calm–at least outwardly–and talking to our children. I’ll admit, though: given the choice, I’d rather talk to my kids about sex, drinking or drugs any day.
But in an era of lockdown drills and worse, do we really have a choice?