Lock Down at SSCPS 4/7/2014

I Want to be Boston Boring0407141146

A call from my daughter’s school usually means snow delays, she is sick or I forgot it was a half day. O.k., it could even be the school nurse nicely saying, “Come get your licey headed kid” which means weeks of washing, combing, spraying and obsessing about bugs or chemicals.But a call is never scary. Or it wasn’t until yesterday morning when the South Shore Charter Public School (SSCPS) called all parents to let us know they were in a precautionary lock down.

The only detail we got was that they were working with the Norwell police which meant it was not a drill.  

My mind was racing fast around the what-if track. What if a student is holding kids hostage? What if my daughter, Kai, is locked in a classroom huddling in a corner? What if she’s scared and confused?

“I’m going to the school because I don’t know what else to do,” Heidi Aylward, mother of fifth-grader Savannah Aylward said. I felt the same, needing to see, smell or feel what was happening if I couldn’t get any facts.

 Eight to ten police cars were on school grounds and blocking the driveway when I arrived. Officers and police dogs were going in the school or standing outside the front door.

School is supposed to be a sanctuary of predictable, social and educational activities.

There is the warm kindergarten teachers who plant daffodils, the goofy math teacher who makes the subject cool, the K-6 principal, Ted Hirsch, who greets children by name at the back entrance every morning.

There is never a dangerous lock down or police presence in force. 

Listening to the news can be like being a ball in a rack on a pool table three rows deep. You are moved mere inches when someone else is aimed at, hit and scatters. You get shaken seeing someone pocketed deep and fast. Moments of awareness sneak in, but mostly, you don’t believe that same bad stuff is going to happen to you, or at least not your kid when they are at school.

I know life isn’t fair and bad things happen. Still, I assume the rest of my daughter’s childhood will be light on trauma. There has been abandonment and loss, adoption and divorce, physical therapy and malnutrition, anxiety and attachment. There’s even been flooding. It’s enough.

Plus, more often, there is Monday night dance, Wednesday guitar lessons, before bed reading and bagels for breakfast. There is time for IPods, friends and running around the coastal neighborhood. We swing on the hammock and make confetti cake for a sick neighbor.

There is never a scenarios involving shell casings found at school.

I’m not naive. I grew up in Brighton during integration. I know there have always been drugs and weapons. We had bomb threats in high school. Our parents had duck and cover drills.

We did not have live footage of funerals after bombs or scenes following the firing of semi-automatic weapons used at schools. Our fears often remained in our imaginations where they belong. Now, fear is replaced by evidence and memories of Sandy Hook and Columbine and our own marathon bombing not even a year in the past.

The soft haze of denial is punctured by adrenaline when we remember what we generally try not to think about or to forget. I’m a fan of facing reality. But when it comes to our children I don’t want to be Boston Strong.

I want be Boston Safe and Boston Boring. I want to Boston Blah.

Honestly, I don’t want to need our first responders so desperately or so often, to have them in danger, losing lives or getting traumatized by what they witness.

I want to go back to the time when I felt I ran my daughter’s universe. I was the police officer letting her know which streets she could cross, the lifeguard showing how deep into the water she could go, the educator introducing letters and numbers. Remember when parents were the carriers of sunscreen, money for popsicles, pails for building castles and towels for drying off? We were exhausted because we were on duty and the job was keeping our kids safe. 

Yesterday, parents stood helpless on the outside of our children’s school parking lot. Teachers I don’t know the middle names of were keeping my child calm while dogs sniffed classrooms, back packs and lockers. I had to trust people I don’t know well as officers and administrators assessed danger.

I mostly believed my child was safe. But those were not make-believe dogs or volunteer officers on the property.  Officers were in uniform and on duty so I was edgy and concerned.

After a few hours some cruisers started to leave, the police dogs seemed done and the lock down officially lifted.

Parents were led into the school by a police officer and we walked through the halls happy to see children snacking and chatting. Teachers and staff stood in the hallways smiling and showing us they were fine. The relief was palpable.

We knew we were spared the grief others have endured and that was what was hovering in our hearts.

In the auditorium, administrators loved up the Norwell police department and Metropolitan Law enforcement. In turn, the police raved about how organized, efficient and responsive the school was. As lock downs go it was a great success. Routine protocol had been followed. But who wants a world with routine lock down protocol in the school system?

We were asked not to take our children home so they could finish their day without further disruption of their routine. Most of acquiesced though we wanted them with us.

“What are you doing here?” my daughter said when I went to her classroom to lay eyes on her.

She was confused and grinning and didn’t know the lock down was more than a drill.

She didn’t realize fifty plus parents were outside having left work, home and grocery carts in stores mid-aisle as they rushed to the school. She didn’t know I was holding vigil outside, calling and texting her father and other parents.

Actually, my presence in the hallway showing up unexpectedly at mid-day was odd. I was out of her context.

“Let’s get out of here and get frozen yogurt,” I wanted to say apologizing for the times I used to hide in the bathroom to get a moment to myself. Years ago, she would follow because she missed me when she couldn’t see me.

She wanted to go to recess with her friends. I let her.

It was me who wanted to hold on, linger and cling. Now it was me who just wanted her around me.

As I walked through the parking lot with police cars still on the premises my knees buckled. All of the emotion I had not allowed was welling up and I felt dizzy.

My daughter, after her first lock down, was absolutely and utterly and completely fine.

I, on the other hand, in the privacy of my own car was going to need a minute.


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