Monday, September 22, 2003

Well, you probably saw the news today that a student brought a gun to our school, Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, Wash. It happened at lunch. Two friends and I were having lunch when the fire alarm sounded, but it only sounded for a second. Then, after a pause, it went off again. I considered staying in my room during the "drill," but we decided to go out. I even took my chili with me, so I could eat.

When we got in the hall, we quickly realized it was not a drill when a secretary came down the stairs and screamed for us all to get out quickly. As usual, I began telling the students to get on the grass in the play area, away from the building. Within a minute, staff were telling us to move the students across the street. As we were doing so, the local news truck pulled up. Man, they were fast.

We had to hang out around the corner of the hospital across the street, out of sight of school. We were there for about an hour, until we were directed to the field house, where buses waited to take students to the Spokane Arena, where their parents could pick them up.

I suppose I could go on about the specifics, but you can read the papers for that. I guess what most people don't get is a snapshot of what it is like to be involved in this. Here are my impressions.

First, it did not seem that serious. We were evacuated from the building so quickly, we did not see or hear anything that scared us. We knew it was serious, but we did not know how serious, so we behaved pretty nonchalantly.

Second, I felt much worse for the student than I thought I would. I was concerned for him, even though I did not know him. I guess I could feel concern because I knew he had not hurt anyone yet. When you see kids like these on TV, it is easy to immediately think of them as monsters. But every one of these kids is hurting, and I did not think of it this way until now.

Third, the evacuated students' behavior really did not change. They seemed to ask the mundane and selfish questions they usually ask: is the football game still on tonight? can I go back in to get my keys/purse/backpack? are they going to cancel school? can we go home? They were not crass, just self-centered.

Fourth, I saw very few obvious shows of emotion, except from the usual suspects who ALWAYS show know, the perennial raw nerves, the drama queens (and kings).

Fifth, after it was all over, I was very angry for the violation of trust. I was also angry because this one kid with a problem tarnished a great school and a great city. It makes you realize how a small thing takes on huge proportions when the media gets ahold of it. Paducah will forever be tarnished by the behavior of one stupid kid, and our school will also be tarnished, though, luckily, to a much lesser degree.

Sixth, the media are in a tough position. They have to get the story without appearing to be jackals. They have to serve the public's right to know. Mostly, though, they appear to be jackals.

Seventh, people respond with responsibility when faced with a genuine task. Not one person I saw today shirked their duty or turned their eyes from other people's needs. Whether it was simply obeying commands blindly or helping a kids with Down's Syndrome to the bus, people did what needed to be done. I was proud of how we comported ourselves.

I'm sure there is an eighth, ninth and tenth, but I'll have to think about it for a while. Sleep on it, you know.

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