Hours later that same day, the school completed a monthly fire drill and we moved directly into a lock-down practice. Two of our students were ill and waiting for guardians to collect them. Until then, they were in my care. I shepherded my charges into "safe" spots in the nurse's office and myself huddled under the desk. The school was silent as the principal and assistance principal checked each room, testing to make sure all the students were safely out of sight of any attacker.
I fidgeted, shifting my pretzeled legs awkwardly, picking at my shoelaces, stifling the urge to jabber. The clock ticked mercilessly. I missed my cell phone, sitting on the desk above. Over and over again I thought "I didn't lock the door. I didn't lock the door." and regretted that thoughtlessness that could cost a child's life. The floor outside the door squeaked. I fretted the decision to place one child in a corner, the other behind me. The clock ticked. I mentally reworked our hiding spaces, putting myself in that corner, both children more safely under the desk. Perhaps in a crisis a shooter would focus on me and overlook them.
The all-clear finally was announced and I awkwardly unwound myself, casually pointing the children back to their cots. I finished up some paperwork, signed the children out when their parents arrived, prepared for the end-of-day rush. Children shouted joyfully at the bell, racing to buses and play dates and after-school activities. I cleaned off my desk and headed home, more aware than ever of the hope our children present, and how very vulnerable they are.