This morning was disquieting. Sometime around 11, while I was mid-sentence in a phone presentation at work, my co-worker approached my desk and whispered that there was a disgruntled employee from our building with a rifle, and the police had surrounded the area. (I’d actually spied a cop while peering out the window near my desk, but he was double-parked and appeared to be leaving, so I didn’t really trip at that point. Now, with the news–TRIPPING). I instantly grabbed my cell: I tweeted, I texted my husband, and quickly twisted the blinds shut. Not that I could let myself lose focus–I was of course, giving a presentation on the merits of education and couldn’t let my facade slip. I goggled at my co-worker and kept on with the orientation, trying to ignore the panic that kept rising up inside. Staff members went to each exit, secured the doors, and students were instructed not to go outside. I heard a particularly intense phone call from one student who told the person on the other end not to come pick her up. I even started thinking about creating a makeshift barricade with materials in the office, so if we were shot at, we could hide behind it.
Afterward, I learned that the situation hadn’t been as dire as we had been told. Apparently, the employee had merely threatened to bring a gun back to his workplace (apparently, he’d been fired), and hadn’t actually materialized with said weapon. Well gee–could someone have told us that?
It was oddly reminiscent of an experience I’d had my freshman year in high school. I remember walking out of my PE class into the quad, and of course it was lunchtime, so there were loads of students swarming the area. Only at that moment, it was deathly silent. I remember just stopping and staring at a figure in a blue plaid flannel shirt and jeans; the figure was dangling from a rope attached to the top of the gym, and arms were supporting the figure and lifting him down from where he hung. At first, I thought it was a joke…but the silence was a deafening, and everyone seemed frozen in that moment. I didn’t want to see the man’s face; I remember walking away as quickly as I could and feeling completely jacked up inside. Eventually, we were all herded into classrooms, the doors were locked, and we couldn’t leave. Granted, few people had cell phones then, so the calls weren’t really happening, but I remember two girls near me crying. It was so strange–there wasn’t even a gunman, yet we were treated as if there was and artificially isolated from the moment. I kept closing my eyes and seeing him dangling there in my mind’s eye.
Fortunately, the high school senior was all right. I remember the announcement from the VP the next morning that the student was feeling ashamed, but better and would be getting help. Perhaps the almost gunman from our building will do the same. I am thankful in both cases that no one died.