A tweet I actually tweeted as the incident unfolded (from my old Twitter account)
I remember in 2012, it must have been a few days after Newtown happened, my friend and I were walking down our high school hallway to my locker a few minutes before school officially let out. I remember the exact hall we were in: fourth floor, south hallway.
Suddenly, in the middle of our conversation, the lockdown bells started blaring. Of course, at that time, we had no idea what the lockdown bells sounded like, just knew that it wasn’t a fire drill. Because we’ve never had a lockdown drill before then. I was a sophomore, and never in all the years I’ve been at school have I experienced a lockdown until that day.
We had no idea what was going on. I remember being confused and my friend being confused, as well. We saw my English teacher rushing out of her room, which was where we were heading anyway.
It’s weird, I can still vaguely recall what she was wearing. It was either a green short-sleeved sweater or a brown short-sleeved shirt, something forest-toned. And my English teacher, who I remember with so much kindness and love (that year was when I became really set on majoring in English), seemed frazzled. It was a harrowing sight.
She rushed out of her room and yelled at us to get inside. Again, my friend and I had no idea what was going on, but we did as we were told, rushing into the room full of other students, some I recognized and some I didn’t. After a little while, my teacher came in and locked both of the doors.
I remember my teacher looking out into the hallway and seeing a bunch of other kids still in the halls, and she opened the door and hurried them into the room. She locked it again. The alarm stopped ringing.
Everyone was scattered around the room, confused, because the last bell was about to ring and it was Thursday, a few days before school let out for break, and everyone just wanted to leave. But my teacher told us that we were having a lockdown, and she didn’t say it was a drill, no, she told us it was real because the school has never practiced lockdown drills before and we never had drills during last period. She would have gotten notified about it. This was real.
She told us to get away from the windows because it was dangerous, and to get down against the wall along the door, so if there was a shooter in the school, they would look into the room and assume it was empty.
I remember shaking, being full of fear, because Newtown hit close to home and I always had a fear that something like that would happen at my school, with the lax security (unless you’re trying to leave the school early) and the huge student population of over 5000. But everyone else in the room was so calm, including my friend, while I was close to tears because I was so scared of what could happen.
The lockdown ended about ten minutes later and everyone was safe. The school never released an official statement of what occurred, which is just the way my high school always operated, but rumor has it that someone, outside the school and in the neighborhood, pulled out a gun after having a conflict with someone else. The other rumor was that 2012 was the end of the world and people always did insane things when the world ended, like swinging a gun around in the streets. Either way, these events supposedly happened on the block of my school, a block I walked on every day to get to the building and to get home. And the incident was so close to the time everyone was supposed to go home.
To this day, that’s been one of the scariest moments of my life, which is surprising compared to everyone else’s relaxed reactions. Shootings like Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech and Columbine have never felt more real before that day.
After that, my school started changing its safety procedures. All the windows on the doors were covered with paper, so no one can look into the classrooms, lockdown drills became more frequent, and signs of what to do during a soft and hard lockdown were put up in every classroom (though they were put in high places where they were unreadable, which is another classic move by my high school). We started preparing for the what-ifs, the things that could happen, which strongly reminded me of the bomb drills that schools participated in during the Cold War, when the threat became real on the home front.
But like all teenage high school students, no one really took the drills seriously. It was just another way to waste class time, like what fire drills have become. Even after that December day, when I was struck with so much fear, I also was like this. The threat of tragedy was real, of course it was, but we just accepted all this as part of our life. It’s the norm. It’s unchangeable.
Fast forward from December 2012 to June 2016, when Orlando happened. I feel like the event snapped everyone my age out of their reverie, with many of the victims being millennials just trying to be themselves and have a good time. Everyone was so speechless about what occurred. And we realized how little things have changed. From Newtown, from that first lockdown I’ve had, we realized how after everything we’ve done since then, in terms of gun control, there was still no change.
Because we didn’t really do anything.
We have to change that, whether it’s with our emails or tweets or calls or videos or articles. We have to use our voices to affect change. Because I’m scared that these things will never change.