This past Monday our community, school, family walked through yet another tragedy in a year that has been full of them. My daughters’ highschool had an “officer involved shooting” in the school. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations wanted to make it clear that this was not a “school shooting” where someone has brought a gun to the school with the intent of hurting people at the school, but was rather the result of a police officer engaging a student who was suspected of having a gun, and gunfire was exchanged. A police officer was injured, but is recovering, and the student is dead.
For our family, we had an entire hour, from the moment the highschool was put in lockdown at the end of the school day, until we managed to get everyone home, that we had no idea what was going on. All we knew was that there was danger, a really big situation, and my daughter was in the building where all this danger was happening.
The school district did not communicate with the parents during the whole thing which made the fear worse. Monday night I wrote the school district, voicing my complaints about the lack of communication with parents, and they personally called me the next day to apologize and say that this was an area they were going to improve in.
My elementary school kids were also put in lockdown, (the school is relatively close to the high school) moments before they were to be dismissed. The teachers at the elementary school did not know what was happening, just that they were in a hard lockdown. They presumed there was imminent danger, and their fear and stress leaked over to the kids they were watching. My 1st and 2nd grader were crying when they finally were released to come get in my car. They told me later that they thought they were about to be shot by a bad guy.
After I finally had all my elementary kids in my car, we then had to maneuver through police barricades until we finally found an access point where we could get to my daughter who was waiting at the high school for me. And during all of this there was a police helicopter swooping overhead making us all feel that we were in a war zone.
When we got home I wouldn’t let the kids play outside because the helicopter was still present, making circles over our house (we live close to the highschool) and I had no idea if the helicopter was actively looking for someone in our neighborhood. So the kids huddled inside, looking out the windows, waiting for the danger to pass. And I sat, scanning all the social media and news sites I could find, trying to get information on what was happening.
My husband came home early and I walked into his embrace and as he held me, I felt everything going black in my head, and was sure, for a moment, that I was going to faint. Rumors were flying and we heard that our principal, a man I admire, might have been shot. Was the office staff all wounded? How many people were dead? At one point in time I just hid in my kitchen and cried. Trying to avoid the kids, not wanting to increase their stress by having a complete breakdown myself.
It took quite a while for all the details to come out. And now, On Wednesday, we still have not heard the name of the student who has died. And my daughter is supposedly supposed to return to school tomorrow, but I have a million questions, and none of them have been answered yet.
Yesterday I gathered up all the kids, emailed all the elementary teachers telling them my kids would not be in school, and we left town and spent the day with my parents.
Yesterday I would say that my stress level was at ninety-five out of a hundred. This morning I think I’ve got it down to maybe a forty?
Yesterday morning I was feeling pretty horrible. Angry, agitated. I sat down and found myself rocking back and forth. Good grief. I was also feeling a lot of condemnation. Look at you! Where is your faith and your peace? And I had to stop and speak some truth to myself. You have just gone through a very stressful situation and your body and emotions are responding to that. You have to give yourself permission to recover from this. And, God is still good, and still in control, so we are going to cling to that and give ourselves some time to decompress and recover.
So, Wednesday morning, I’m doing better than yesterday, but still feeling a bit shell-shocked.
I haven’t even started processing the situation at our school, but I feel like I at least got the rocking boat of our family back onto calmer waters.