Yesterday, we had a bomb threat. Big deal, right? If you went to high school in the early 2000’s, you’ll be used to vacating the school and sitting on the bleachers for hours on end. You’d think that would have prepared me for yesterday.
It all started at 10:20. I had to pee. I always have to pee around the end of second period. I was secure in the knowledge that once the bell rang, I could void my bladder with the utmost abandon, a woman secure in the knowledge of the coming comforts of life in a first-world bathroom stall. Then the principal came over the intercom and told us to stop everything we were doing… three times. He sounded like someone had died. All the kids looked really worried. The principal, in a few words, told us to grab everything and go to the stadium to wait out a “possible threat” and that this was “not a drill”. My kids, mostly upperclassmen, started asking me freaked out questions. Since I’d lived through dozens of these instances, I reassured them that it was probably nothing.
We walked to the stadium in the front of the line, fortunately, because we were in the pods nearby. I managed to keep all of my ducklings together until we got to our seats and waited. And waited. Try getting 2000+ people to move through a six-foot space in a gate. It’s not an easy task.
There were so many rumors flying around. This was a drill. This was most definitely not a drill. This was common knowledge and in teacher e-mails that morning. No one knew anything about a drill happening. There was a bomb in the school. There was testing, so someone called in a threat.
In all reality, no one really knew what was going on at all. My 20 ducklings and I sat, rather patiently. Then the principal came on over the loudspeakers to tell us that we were evacuating to a local middle school.
Oh? That sounded a bit more serious than we all thought.
I took attendance over and over. I made sure the kids knew that I would hunt them down if they strayed and ended up on another bus. Looking back, I could not have asked for a better class to have that day. They were angels compared to the stories I’d heard from other teachers, who had lost their flock in the shuffle.
We were dismissed from the bleachers and ended up in a mass of students near that six-foot gate that I mentioned. If you squint, you can see me close to the bushes in the left-center of the mass, clutching my attendance sheet and emergency bag with shaky hands.
Miraculously, I managed to get everyone on one of the first buses out to the middle school. There were two classes on my bus and the other teacher had already lost half of her kids. Mine had visible halos over their heads and responded when attendance was taken for the 56th time. When we made it to the middle school, the carpool lane was jammed with scared/angry looking parents, cars askew.
We were herded into the school’s football field, conveniently fenced off in order to keep track of who came in and who came out. Consequently, this would later lead to all the chaos. My kids and I gathered by some trees, seeking whatever shade we could find. It was about 85 degrees and barely a cloud in the sky. I knew that my skin would burn. Nothing to do about it but tough it out, I thought heroically. I did manage to find somewhere to pee at this point, after having to verbally wrestle an administrator at the middle school for keys. It had been two hours since I had first felt the “I really have to go!” twinges.
The kids continually asked if they could just walk home. Several of them lived just a few blocks away. As the hours dwindled away, my kids slowly absorbed themselves into a mass of people waiting at the gate — parents on one side, kids on the other.
It was the most disorganized mess I’ve ever seen in my
teaching career life. Teachers, who had also lost their students to chaos, stood off to the side likening the scene to that of pictures you see of refugee or internment camps. I agreed wholeheartedly.
I couldn’t help try to organize because I couldn’t get to the front, nor would I be recognized as a teacher. But I felt like too many cooks would spoil the pot, you know? I’d definitely get lost in the shuffle and my shouts are not loud or authoritative. I asked around to see if people needed water and, once the buses came to take students home, corralled those who hadn’t heard the message.
Finally, once the crowd of parents and students diminished to the few left who drove to school, the teachers were allowed to get on the last buses to the high school. Here’s a selfie that one of the teachers took that sums up the exhaustion:
After four hours, we finally got back to school in time for the final bell dismissing students for the day. Ha!
– The teachers had a lot to deal with. Kudos to them for mostly holding it together.
– Surprising us all, the whole of the student body was amazing. There wasn’t too much complaining, mostly because I think they were actually scared. No one even took the opportunity to find a convenient corner to make out. I had angels, and I am bringing them cupcakes tomorrow to show my vast appreciation.
– The administrators should have been more organized, since they did know about the threat hours before we actually left school. However, they took the blows as they came and dealt with it as best they could. Could have been better, but it was the first time a school has ever evacuated for this kind of thing in Wake County.
All in all, it was an interesting day at work.