In more ways than one, this was a difficult article for me to write. While I sort my feelings out on paper, I am forever grateful to God for keeping me safe in a time of danger; and I am truly sad that in today’s society, school lockdowns and mass shootings are becoming all too common.
Friday, May 3, one week after the horrible shooting at UNC-Charlotte, while visiting North Carolina A&T State University for a conference, the campus went into an official lockdown for just over two hours because of an armed gunman on campus.
Yes, a typical conference for college advisors had turned into an extremely frightening day that will forever be etched in my memory. While replaying the events of that day, I shutter to think of what could have been my reality. One minute I was gaining knowledge to become better equipped to serve students, and in the next minute, I was receiving the awkward surprise of the gentleman who burst through the lecture room doors yelling instructions on how and where to take cover, because “the campus is now in an official lockdown.” Without hesitation, and leaving all of my belongings behind except my cell phone, I followed directions perfectly; just as I had seen on television, I knew that one wrong move could be detrimental.
While I stayed very low on the floor, quiet and couched in the dark corner of a mid-sized, cold and impersonal lecture room, visions of my family faded in and out of mind. Unspoken words, hugs and acts of kindness that I had planned to eventually get around to were poignant. Thoughts of what I would say and do once released from the lockdown flashed in and out. I texted my brother, telling him what was happening in case my family saw this news on television, to let everyone know that I was safe for the moment, and they should not worry. My fate was in God’s hands.
As the thoughts and memories of family and friends transpired, I tried to imagine what was happening with the suspected gunman. Was it just a misunderstanding between friends or lovers; or was this a terrorist wishing to cause the demise of anyone in his path? Was this a copycat, emulating the shootings a week before? No matter the reason, no one should have to suffer through a school lockdown for any reason. Just as church, schools should be safe havens.
While I write this story, I start to feel the fear again, reliving that day, so I decided to take a break. While surfing the channels, I stumble upon a mind-blowing, frightening report…another mass shooting. A real, a horrible act of workplace terrorism, the mass shooting in Virginia Beach, Friday, May 31. Not a lockdown, 12 people killed at their workplace.
That afternoon, I sat in front of the television, not only shaken and sad, but confused and frightened about mass shootings and lockdowns becoming normal in American culture. And while I won’t debate our country’s gun laws, or mental health issues, because I have learned that “a person against his will, is of the same opinion still.”
So why debate? Instead, what will we do about it? In previous articles, I have provided three steps to change or perhaps curb, various challenges we face in our everyday lives. I typically mention a few articles to read giving direction on how to cope, or list websites to visit for more information, and sometimes I share various scriptures to help. I have found scripture is constant at all times; as in James 2: 14-26 of the Bible, we learn that faith without works is dead. Today I ask, what will we do individually or collectively to end mass shootings?
My first action step is to advocate for more communication about lockdown drills, and to put a human face to the possibility of yes, this could happen to me. Until I was actually in a lockdown, routine lockdown drills had become very “routine” for me. I used to just go through the motions, in the back of my mind thinking, this will never happen to me. Now I know differently. I urge us all to have lockdown drills at church, schools, and in the workplace; and to go through each drill with the same vigor of surviving an official lockdown. Talk about this with your families at home by stressing the severity of these drills.
While typing, I have deleted the last two paragraphs about six or seven times, trying to word them correctly, because I don’t want to say that our normal way of life now involves regularly scheduled lockdown drills, like fire drills, but the drills are needed to make us aware of, and astute, if ever in a lockdown or active shooting.
T.A. Jones is a regular contributor to The Warren Record and the author of “A Summer with No Ice Cream.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org