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Evil Creeps Closer

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The phone rang with the number of The Kids’ school. At the same time, texts start coming in from The Girl. She left for school that morning feeling less that 100% so I assumed it was a call from the nurse & rejected the school phone call while finishing up a phone call with a client.

When I finally looked at my phone I felt the color drain from my face.

“We’re in a shelter in place” read The Girl’s text.

Cursing myself for not answering the call from the school, I fought the urge to drive there knowing that whatever was happening, the last thing the school staff needed was a group of anxious parents getting in the way.

I’m sure every parent from Parkland or Columbine… every loved one from The Pulse in Orlando or The Borderline in Thousand Oaks, CA… thought it couldn’t possibly happen in their world. We all think that. We all desperately want to believe that. Whenever there was a lag in The Girl’s texts, I wondered. Just like all of those other families.

Just 6 days ago, last Wednesday, a threat to The Kids’ school was found in a bathroom. It was deemed “not credible” & extra police were on hand for the last two days of the week. The Kids were with their dad that night & we discussed via text whether or not he should keep them home like they wanted. We decided, as The Ex so eloquently put it, that “we would not be emotionally manipulated by some mouth breather with a crayon.”

Heading back into school on this Monday morning, it seemed like a lifetime ago & we didn’t give it a second thought.

The Girl tells of being in math & having the teacher suddenly go to the door & pull a couple of kids in from the hall, shutting off the lights & locking the door as they rushed into the room. At least she had her phone with her. The Boy was in gym with his Medical Assisting shop which is 99% female. As the girls were ushered into the women’s locker room, he was pushed into the men’s locker room with a group of seniors that had been working out nearby. No phone, no way to communicate, not knowing anyone. He puts on a brave face but when we went to the store tonight, he stuck by my side instead of his usual routine of going off to see what was new for PS4 or XBox games.

My kids are growing up with evil getting closer.

Someone pointed out tonight that it was a good thing they practiced active shooter drills because at least they knew what to do. “It’s like the fire drills & evacuations we used to do in school.”

Only it’s not.

A fire can happen any time, true. But a fire – with rare exception – is not an intentional act of violence. Staring down a fire & trying to get away from it can’t come close to the terror of facing down evil with a gun. In your school. These kids are growing up with a heightened sense of fear for exactly this reason. We wonder why anxiety is rampant among teenagers. We blame mounting academic pressures, the 24/7 culture of social media & the violence of video games. Have we ever considered that it’s because this generation – born during & after 9/11 – have been raised on high alert. They have been raised to know that they are not safe, even in their own schools.

I remember the first time The Boy came home from his new elementary school in 3rd grade & told me about the drill they had. The teacher locked the door & turned off the light & they all crawled into a vent at the back of the classroom & had to sit really still. That same year, their first in public school, The Girl came home & told us about a lock down drill they did in middle school that day. One of the kids said something during the drill & the teacher looked at that kid & said, “Thanks. You just killed us all.”

This is how they have to live now. This is how we all have to live. With evil creeping closer.

I don’t have the answers. I don’t even really know what questions to ask to get to the right answers to end this. I trust my kids’ school. I trust the systems & protections they have put into place. I trust my kids to be smart & alert & to do what they need to. No, I don’t want to be emotionally manipulated by some mouth breather with a crayon. I also don’t want to see evil in my kids’ school or any school. And I feel helpless watching it creep closer.

The evil didn’t get to them today. The school was evacuated & the kids were sent home. The school was swept by bomb squads & dogs & deemed safe so they will be going back tomorrow.

But “safety” is kind of relative now, isn’t it?

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