I work for an organization that provides workshops for young women in middle and high school. My staff delivers programs based on issues that affect today’s youth: self esteem, college and career preparation, diversity…the list goes on and on.
We cover the state. A small state, admittedly, but we reach girls in all three counties. I don’t do direct service — my staff does that. I don’t get to spend much time in the classrooms or auditoriums where they do their magic, but every now and then an opportunity arises where I get to slip in, watch and maybe comment a bit.
Today I left the house while it was still dark to travel the full length of the state to meet my newest employee as she presented a workshop to a group of 12 young ladies. It was impressive. They were involved, silly, pensive, soaking in every word that she said. Three quarters of the way through the staff person at the site showed me her cell phone. The words “bomb threat” jumped out at me.
Now I’m what you might call a “seasoned” professional. Retired almost 3 years ago after 25 years of teaching in the public school sector. I’ve seen my fair share of bomb threats. Seen dogs sniffing through lockers. Led kids to the auditorium, or the stadium or to whatever place we had previously determined would be the most “safe” in case the unthinkable happened. Today was different. I wasn’t staff. And instead of being pushed into action, I was escorted, along with my employee, out of the building to my car. They were concerned about our safety when all I wanted to do was get in there and keep those kids calm. It was unsettling for someone who has told kids over and over “they’d have to get through me to get to you”. But it wasn’t my gig, my school, my class. So I sat in my car for a minute and watched the line of kids, maybe 4 abreast, marching quietly out of their school, onto the sidewalk and then onto the median — down the road, away from where there might be danger. I counted 7 police cars at the entrances to the building.
And as I watched I felt an overwhelming sense of sorrow. Not dread. I was as sure as I can be that there was no one going to do these kids harm, this day, but sorrow. I hate that they have to endure this. I hate that they know how to do this, to line up and walk across the street to who knows where. When I was in school we sat under our desks with our heads between our knees in case “they” dropped the bomb on our school. Not likely. When my kids, now in their thirties, had bomb scares they drove to dunkin donuts, played frisbee or softball in the parking lot. Today, kids march, quietly, across the street. Cell phones in hand, calling their moms. Worried that this might be the day that they face danger. And with the world the way it is, they have cause to worry.
There was no bomb. There were calls to, last I heard, 5 schools in our state today, 7 yesterday. Sorrow. Just sorrow.