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I was so scared as soon as I saw her scared. Ms. Drogan was honest, lucid, the perfect kindergarten teacher; so when her pretty smile contorted to mask her fear it was my first clue something was wrong. I was young, so everything was contagious. Thoughts, colds, yawns, fear. And as soon as my neighbor Abby sensed something was off, I knew and soon everyone knew.
At first, I was confused, we had code reds before but never like this.
“I REPEAT THIS IS NOT A DRILL. THIS IS A CODE RED. TEACHERS FOLLOW EMERGENCY PROTOCOL."
When I heard this, I became quiet, sensing this was not a time to talk. Slowly silence traveled, undulating throughout the class until everyone was silent. We were never supposed to talk during drills, but we always did. Except for during this one.
Ms. Drogan moved shakily around the room to close the blinds and turn off lights. This was when my friend Emily, started crying. Soon, everyone was on the verge of tears including our teacher. All I remember is wanting to find my mom.
Ms. Drogran led us over to sit in the far corner of our classroom, behind the desks and windows. I slid my fingers over each desk as I walked over, unquestioningly following my teacher. In the stillness, we were able to hear our classmates in other rooms sobbing. My class just sat there, stitching a blanket from kindergarten innocence and terror, creating knots from the bonds that are created amid a scared community. Everyone was taking up as little space as possible, trying to wink out of existence and become invisible. It was an un-explainable fear, the kind you have because you know you should.
Ms. Drogan whispered to us, breaking protocol by trying to calm us down. But, her cracking voice only succeeding in making us more scared.
“Everything is fine," she said, “Everything will be okay.” “Soon you guys can go home and see your parents," but, her words carried no weight because even she didn't believe them.
The lockdown seemed to go on forever. Finally, a police man knocked on our classroom door, to tell us we could leave. He was nice to us, but I didn't care because all I wanted to do was find my mom. I ran outside along with everyone else, a stampede of children seeking the safety of their parents. I stood there on my tippy toes, reaching up as high as I could go to find my mom, but there were big orange blocks around the school trapping us in and keeping the parents out. I watched as parents struggled to get around the blocks and police officers, trying to go and find their children. Eventually, I found my mom with a tearful hug.
Years later, I learned that when I was in kindergarten there was a sniper going around and shooting people in DC. He killed ten people. The day of the lockdown, he was spotted next to my school.
When I think back to this day, I am grateful that I didn’t understand the extent of the danger I was in at such a young age. I didn’t fully grasp the treacherous world that we live in until I was much older and news reports actually had profound meaning. But, especially in the context of the sandy hook shootings and the general increase of mass murders in our country, experiences like this one fill me with appreciation and force me to question: why this has been a problem since before I was born? How is it possible for humans to act so inhumanly? Why am I still the safe one?