I’m writing for me. I’ll publish, but I will delete comments that are provocative. This is my account of something horrible that happened a few miles away from me. It did not happen to me. I am not directly involved in any way. It didn’t happen at my school and I don’t personally know the people involved. But my friends do. My students do.
Last Monday morning, Oct 21st, was our first day back at school after the new fall break that was added to our calendar this year. I walked into a mess. Work was done in my classroom over break and things were not put back. It was a bad way to start a week. I was annoyed. I saw a colleague and told her about the mess. She then told me that she saw our school police leave campus in a big hurry. We chatted about how odd it was for them to leave just 15 minutes before school started. That was the first sign something was wrong. But then the bell rang and it was business as usual.
About 30 min later we got an email from our school secretary telling us that there was a shooting at near-by Sparks Middle School and it was being closed and evacuated. We needed to be notified because this is one of our feeder schools, so some of our students would be late or absent because their younger siblings who attend SMS would need to be picked up.
And then the news started trickling in. Not much from traditional sources. Most of it was coming from Facebook and text messages from little brothers and sisters. We heard that four people were shot. Just before lunch we heard a teacher had been shot. Right after lunch, I was told by a colleague that it was a math teacher and that he had died. The shooter committed suicide and two boys where hospitalized. I think she heard this from a teacher friend at that school. I went numb.
My calculus class right after lunch was participating in a lesson given by four engineering students from our local university, one of whom was one of my grads. I was grateful because my only job was to supervise. It was a great lesson with a fun activity, so my students were busy and having fun. I just sat at my desk quietly. I was in shock. I looked at the teacher’s website to see if I could find a picture of this man. I didn’t recognize him. After class, I asked my grad if he knew Mr. Landsberry when he was in middle school. He said he did and that he was also his soccer coach at the time.
The rest of afternoon my classes had work to do to prepare for their midterm exams. I honestly just went through the motions. Kept checking online for more information. Emailed my husband to let him know that I’d probably be distracted and sad and told him why. He didn’t say it, but I know the news had to disturb him, too. I’ve been teaching high school for 18 years so we’ve been through the aftermath of many school shootings, including Columbine. But this was close to us. And this was another math teacher.
I came straight home after work. Hubby was working. I went out and sat on the patio with my iPad and started to read the memorials on Facebook. I just sat and cried. For about an hour. If you don’t know the details, here is a link…
There wasn’t much conversation between my teacher friends about the shooting on Tuesday. We started talking to each other yesterday. I heard it was similar at other schools in our district. We’re in shock. We are profoundly sad. I think I can assume others are doing what I am doing – rehearsing the situation over and over wondering what we would do. I don’t know for sure what I would do. I can tell you that we are trained to protect kids and tend to run toward the problem, not away from it. I think that is why we are all very quiet. We know we would want to be as brave as Mr. Landsberry, but may not be able to do it. How do you talk about that? How do you prepare for that?
Most of the kids at Sparks Middle end up going to Sparks High, not my school. Yesterday, I found out that Sparks High was locked down in a code red all day on Monday. That had to be horrible. I don’t think that it was intentional to keep them locked down all day – no lights, no noise, no bathroom breaks, no lunch. If that is what really happened, I’m going to assume the administration was distracted and forgot to call off the code?
I don’t just grieve for Mr. Landsberry and his family. I also hurt for my colleagues at that school. I’ve been in at least a dozen code red drills. I’ve been in a few real code red lockdowns that turned out OK. I think about what it would be like to be locked down in a room trying to keep kids calm and quiet knowing one of your colleagues was out there – and then hearing shots. And what about all those children who saw this?? I’m having a difficult time just dealing with the news and how my imagination fills in the blanks. It didn’t happen at my school. I wasn’t really there, and yet I’m affected. My friends at my school have said they feel about the same.
This horrible and sad tragedy has been sensationalized in the media. (I suppose I’m not helping.) There has been an announcement that there will be demonstrations at the teacher’s funeral because he is a veteran. The governor has visited the injured students in the hospital. Parents are having press conferences and doing interviews. Meanwhile there are families in deep despair. There are friends and colleagues in shock. There are spouses of teachers worried.
I really struggled about whether to write about this at all. So much coverage and hype around it. I don’t want to be part of that, but it’s been a tough week. What I’ve seen is not what people would think – it’s been a lot of very quiet, some very sad teachers showing up and doing the job. Many of us are avoiding the news. Get the work done. Keep the routines going. We have about 30 schools days left before final exams, so we need to stay focused.
What I wish everyone would remember is that there were 12-year old boys and a selfless teacher who cared about all of them. We don’t know the back story yet. But I look at my 16-17 year old students and see kids. 12 year olds are babies to me. I can’t see any villains here. Only victims and one hero.