“It could never happen to me.” With today’s society being in constant turmoil with one tragedy after another being reported on the news, the frequency and magnitude of these incidents never seem to truly hit us because, well, how could it possibly happen to us? I am guilty for believing that I, myself, was “invincible” in the sense that I couldn’t be touched by the dangers that are in the world. All of that seemed to change just last week when my world was completely turned upside down and time seemed to stand still. All of the stories you see on the news, all of the lives that have been lost in this country due to an abuse in arms, and the amount of times I have said to myself, “This can never happen to me” were all washed away when it was happening to me and I was put in one of the most eye-opening and mentally imprinting events that I have ever had to endure.
I can paint the entire scene from that day. It was late on a Monday morning, the beginning of the last week of classes before spring break. With vacation right around the corner, professors were working to get all of their exams in to get mid term grades ready before the semester passed for a week-long, much needed rest. I was just finishing up my exam in Interpersonal Communications. Sitting next to one of my teammates, we were both still dressed in our practice uniform from our 6:00am practice. As I was finishing up the essays on the exam, I felt a vibration from my watch. The message said that the school was going into a temporary lockdown and that all students and faculty should remain in their classrooms with the doors locked. With confusion, I turned to my teammate and asked if she knew anything about it. As a campus EMT, she got the inside scoop on campus issues before they were made public to the rest of the student body. She said she knew of the situation and told me that I should alert our professor while she locked the door. My teammate is the most bubbly, happy-go-lucky person. The serious, blank stare that she was giving me told me that something was seriously wrong.
When I approached my professor about the message I had received, I was shocked by his relaxed and composed reaction. He just told me that it was most likely a drill and to sit down and finish my exam. It was difficult to focus when all I could think about was why the lockdown was in progress and how long we would be stuck here. The message on my watch told me to stay where I was and to not walk around campus until given further instruction to do so. While I finished my exam, other people in the class proceeded to turn in their tests and walk out the door without looking back. I was left confused until shortly after, they came running back in the room saying that there were police officers and members of the S.W.A.T. team patrolling campus in full body gear, including massive weapons that were ready to go with just the pull of a trigger. As I sat there imagining every possible explanation for the sudden lockdown, my phone lit up with an alert from the school. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to read. “Possible active shooter in Gordon Science Center.” A potential shooter was on campus and only a few hundred feet away from my classroom.
My heart sunk to my feet and I was just in utter disbelief as what I just read. I was frozen in my seat without knowledge of what to do next. Do I text my parents? Do I wait it out and hope it blows over so I don’t have to worry them for no reason? Do I make a run for it and sprint as far away from the school as my legs would allow? Before I knew it, my phone was blowing up. My family from across the country was aware of the situation and checking in on me and my school. The word that the entire campus was in a complete lockdown was spreading like wildfire. I sat on my phone talking with my parents for as long as my phone battery allowed me until it finally gave out. Then there I was, sitting under a desk, no ability to contact my parents or receive further updates from the school, and was in utter fear for what was to come next. I sat silently in that room, flinching at the slightest movement or sound. When, out of nowhere, I began to hear footprints slowly approaching our door. The sound of clunky boots slowly came closer and closer to the door until they made a sudden stop. The doorknob shook for what seemed like an eternity, and then the figure walked away from the room. My heart was finally able to beat again.
After over three hours, the police came into our classroom with massive weapons ready to fire. They patted us down, searched our backpacks, and had us walk in a single file line with our hands up across campus to the safe zone. There, we reunited with our friends and finally began to put together the pieces from the broken day. It took over six hours for the entire campus to be evacuated and residents to be escorted back to their dorms. While we were told we were safe, we had yet to receive any answers as to who did this and why.
Being from Connecticut, school shooting and active shooter threats hit very close to home. I was a freshman in high school when the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting happened on December 14, 2012. With the shooting being twenty minutes down the road, I was definitely too close for comfort. Never did I think I would ever be in another similar situation, but this time, having it be much more serious. The frequency in gun violence in America needs to come to an end. I strongly and proudly take the stance of more gun control in America in hopes that no-one ever has to go through what I, and the rest of my fellow classmates and students, had to endure on the Monday morning. I am blessed to say that no-one was harmed and that the suspect was found, arrested and given an extremely harsh sentence for his crimes. This definitely could have had a much worse outcome, such as the incidents in South Florida, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and countless other accounts. We need to be aware of the dangers we are in and be proactive in our training for these incidents, along with our efforts to work towards a more peaceful and loving world.