Aside: Drills

I normally love hearing all about your day. You chatter animatedly about everything you’ve done in your classroom with very little prodding. I know that this font of information will dry up very soon and I’ll have to reach in and pull it out, so I try to appreciate it while I can.

The other day, however, I literally felt sick to my stomach listening to you.

“I held his hand too daddy! I held her hand and his hand at the same time and we all laughed. The teacher then shushed us to be quiet.”

Maybe something that happened at recess? Sitting on the rug?  That fragment of a story would probably be charming.

But context is everything.  You see, at the time, you and your class were huddled in the bathroom, practicing for – I can only hope and pray – the non-existent day that someone with a gun comes to your school and tries to kill you.

You are SIX and your sister is FIVE years old.

It makes me sick that this is necessary ; it makes me sick that you have to practice for it. I don’t blame the school system for performing these drills. If it ever happened (a proposition I can’t even begin to fathom), I would be glad for the fact that you were “ready”. Never in my hopes about becoming a father I ever thought I’d be potentially grateful that you would have had the preparation to barricade yourself in a room in case someone was trying to murder you.

I know that innocence is a fleeting and precious commodity. The children living in many many other parts of the world don’t have that luxury. Maybe that’s the norm, and the privilege of the suburban shelter is the oddity. Up until now, the heaviest worry you’ve had is how to navigate the lunch line. (We talked about that extensively before school started; I can still see your worried face frowning in consternation.)

How do I even manage to begin this conversation?

I suppose that this may have been how the children who grew up during the zenith of the cold war felt when they practiced ducking under their desks in case of a nuclear attack.  (How they were any safer there makes little sense to me, but I suppose any measure of control over a situation – however futile – provides some comfort. Some things don’t change.  ) But it feels like there is a qualitative difference between that and this. The general prospect of something like a nuclear bomb seems vast and impersonal, akin to trying to dodge the stomp of Godzilla. A school shooting seems so much more personally charged. It is face to face.

I wish this was all academic, but last week a teenager went into an elementary school and shot a teacher and two students. A six-year-old died.

No, that’s not right. “Died” is too passive. A six-year-old was KILLED.

So, go ahead school system. Please continue with the drills. Just pardon me while I go into the other room and weep for the necessity.