Thursday, December 8, 2011
On April 16, 2007 a gunman shot and killed 33 people on the Virginia Tech campus. A stunned country and world watched and waited as the details came forward. I sat in my dorm room on Longwood's campus and let the news play on the TV all day long, my heart breaking for the families, friends, students, professors, and community involved.
Not many years later I find myself working and living in the community that's still healing from the pain and angst felt on that dreadful day. It's not a day that "must-not-be-named," on the contrary, it's a day that comes up in conversation and everyone has their own story.
At 1 PM today I had just led my students back from the library and they were changing classes. Most of my next period were settled and writing in their Day Books when I was summoned into the hall. A gunman on the Tech campus, gun shots, people dead, killer on the loose. Lockdown.
My mind wanted to jump to debating whether or not Jim's school was really considered to be Tech campus or not. Would they have told me if it was the Research Park, specifically? Or is that just known as campus? Or was it on the main campus?
Those aren't questions you can ask when there are students relying on you. Students who know that you never leave the room, unless there's something important. And those aren't thoughts you can really entertain when you have a poor poker face, and the students know that, too.
So, you just relax. And follow the lesson plan.
Until the lesson plan ends and it's really time for the students to leave.
Lockdown continued. What then?
Well, then you pretend that it's really all still fine. You see, you'd really been planning on staying with those students for an extra hour after school. The bag of tricks was poised and waiting all along, without you even knowing it!
Just break the students into groups and give them a challenge! Using only a piece of looseleaf paper, four paperclips, one rubberband, and some masking tape, make a contraption that will take the longest to fall, when dropped from the ceiling. Stand on a stool (get some weird looks and laughs from the principal and guidance counselor when the come by for checks and information), time them, get a drumroll, and announce the winners.
Still on lockdown.
Okay, now regroup and plan what you would do to make it better! New supplies, if needed. Time them, drumroll, and announce the winners!
You guessed it, still on lockdown.
New challenge! Using five pieces of copy paper, a piece of masking tape, and scissors, make the tallest, stand-alone tower you can!
20-25 minutes go by.
Lockdown is released. Buses are ready!
No measuring of towers needed. Pillars all over the classroom.
Now it's time to debate with myself about that campus topic. What is the med. school considered?
An email from Jim with the subject, "I'm OKay!" Just relax.
Pretend it's in the plan.
There were two people killed on the campus today. One was a VT Campus police officer, the other is thought to be the gunman. VT was criticized in 2007 for not communicating with the student body quickly and making sure that procedures were taken to secure a lockdown. Today VT has proven that their alert systems are far superior than they had been before.
We are thankful that our schools took the safety precautions that they did. And today I am thankful for the purpose I was given in that moment to care for others, rather than to succumb to worry and concern. We certainly don't feel less safe in our town.