Updated: Mar 10
Yesterday, September 27, 2022, at 1:36 pm I got a text from my coworker Shan.
“Cops are on campus.
Don’t send anyone out.
I don’t know what’s going on.”
This wasn’t a surprise. I’d heard the many, many sirens. I could still hear the helicopter circling above. I didn’t say anything to the 30 students I had, who were busily working on their language skills.
Minutes later, an assistant principal came over the loudspeaker. In calm but firm tones she told us to lock and shut our doors, turn our lights off, and that we were on lockdown until further notice.
My students freaked out and asked questions. Can we sit on the floor under our desks? Can we move seats and sit with our friends? I have to go to the bathroom, when can I go? Are we going to die? What is going on?
Yes, they could sit wherever they wanted, with whomever they wanted. Other than that, I didn’t have answers for them. I shared that we were going to stay in the room together until we were told all clear, and that might be in 15 minutes, and it might be in 6 hours.
“But Ms,” one of my students pushed back. “I have a dentist appointment today after school.”
I explained to my class that in an emergency where we are on lock down, we need to stay together until we are let known that it is all clear for us to leave safely, that our door will remain locked, the lights will remain off, we will remain quiet until it is over. That their safety was of upmost importance and right now, for whatever reason, it wasn’t safe to go outside.
The kids jumped on an app called Citizen and shared with me that someone had called LAPD and told them that there was an armed intruder on campus. LAPD had our middle school surrounded and was meticulously searching every square inch for danger.
I managed to stay calm, reminding my kids that the door is locked and the lights off, and that we were safe every once in a while. They started to ask me questions about my personal life, which I answered. Sometimes someone would come over the PA and remind us that we are on lock down. So, we sat and waited. And waited. And waited.
I texted Bear. I texted Dave. I texted Squirrels and other friends. I texted my mom. The heightened fear and panic of the students was getting to me and I needed to stay calm for them, as whatever my response to the situation was would feed theirs.
At one point about an hour in, the boy who had stated that he needed the restroom shared his issue again, and I remembered I had a bucket in my classroom for that very purpose. I set up a little area away from the rest of the class so that he – and whoever else might need it– could have privacy, and pointed out that there was hand sanitizer for when they were finished. At first they were too embarrassed to use it, but as time went on, well, human nature takes it’s course.
We waited and waited, all of us on our phones, texting our loved ones, looking for news, scrolling the Citizen app. I texted some teachers to see how they were faring and found that they, too, had students using buckets in their classrooms, and that everyone was on edge. I wasn’t alone.
School was almost out–well, it was almost 3:10, the time school was supposed to be out. The assistant principal came on the PA to remind us that we were still on a lock down, to stay where we were. Minutes later, the fire alarm went off, and she came back on the PA to tell us there was no fire and that it was a false alarm. This scared me more than anything else, although I didn’t say anything to my kids. After all, if all students were in class on lock down, who was out and about to pull the alarm?
Minutes later I saw a light flashing into my classroom. I hesitantly went up to the door, where I heard a loud, “LAPD POLICE, LET US IN.” I opened the door to six police officers, all with guns and rifles in their hands at the ready. The one closest to me had a ballistic shield up and ready to charge me. “Everything is fine,” I said, and closed the door after they nodded and went to the next room.
Finally, around 4 PM a trusted staff member knocked on my door and gave us the all clear. My students and I left immediately, the students straight down the stairwell and me using the elevator as it’s the shortest way to the office.
I left campus at 4:11 PM, after sending a group text that I was safe and driving home. Bear called me immediately and kept me company while I drove, chit chattering away and keeping me distracted from the events enough to drive.
I canceled my plans for the evening–the plan had been to meet Squirrels at the South Bay Botanical Gardens and walk around but I just wasn’t up to it. I ate ice cream for dinner, took a shower, and got in bed, shocky and traumatized by the day’s events.
Today I am drained. I notice that I have very little patience and I’m snapping at my students. I wonder if coming to work was the right idea, but also we already are short teachers and substitutes, and who would actually be there to take my place? I noticed that when a friend asked me how my day was going, I responded with “meh,” instead of my usually cheery, “great!”
I am also so full of gratitude that my latest lockdown story went the way it went. It was a false alarm, but LAPD took it seriously, and my school administrators took it seriously. This was the best of all possible lock down scenarios; everyone did their jobs well and no one got hurt. I have trust in our police department and I have trust in my admin team and I have trust in my students.
I am so beyond grateful.
And I should be paid more.