We were standing near the top of the amphitheater, a long stretch of grass and a couple thousand people separating me from Adam Levine. The opening act for the opening act was setting up on stage and, as usual, my mom had wandered into the heart of the crowd, searching for the perfect seats.
“You can’t go too far to the left or right, Mom!” I yelled, flashing back to concerts in high school when we went too far to the sides – and ended up with the perfect view of a giant support beam.
We found an open spot, in the dead center of the lawn, and if I squinted my eyes and looked at the stage with my head slightly cocked, I had the perfect view of Adam.
It was about halfway through the concert, when I finally tore my eyes away from the stage, that the thought crossed my mind. The same thought that has started barging into my head more and more frequently when I find myself in crowded spaces or new public places.
“Will I be able to get out of here if something terrible happens?”
When I was little, I loved school. I got to read and see my friends, play on the playground during recess and do science experiments. I grew a lima bean plant in a ziplock bag, had a naptime mat that was pink with bunnies on it, and watched baby chicks hatch from an incubator.
School was a happy place, an exciting place, and – most importantly – a safe place.
If I were in school today, I’m not sure I would feel the same way I did when I was younger. Today, seemingly normal students bring guns to school and shoot their friends and teachers. People walk through the hallways and shoot up kindergarten classrooms. Cafeterias become crime scenes.
My sister teaches kindergarten, and I wonder if, when deciding to become a teacher, she realized how dangerous her job would become. I wonder if mixed in with her dreams of teaching children how to read, helping them fall in love with science or math or Clifford the Big Red Dog, if she thought about risking her life to protect her students.
I watch the news coverage of the heroic – truly, truly heroic – actions of teachers during school shootings and my heart aches. They didn’t sign up for this. If they’re anything like my sister, they became teachers to work closely with children, to help them grow, and learn, and become the best little people they can be. There is no doubt in my mind that my sister would do anything to protect her students. That’s what scares me the most.
I used to watch the news coverage with a sense of detachment. “That would never happen in Raleigh. No one would bring a gun to Broughton. It’s ridiculous to think North Hills is dangerous.”
I’m sure the residents of Aurora, Colorado felt the same way. There’s no way anyone in Newtown, Connecticut could have imagined something so horrible happening to them. It was a morning like any other for Michael Landsberry.
So, these days I scan rooms for emergency exits. I carry on conversations while deciding what to do if a shooter enters the building. I’ve weighed the pros and cons of playing dead numerous times.
And I bet I’m not the only one.