I want to preface this by saying – I am in no way trying to compare my experience today with an awful tragedy some have experienced. My kids are all safe at home and sleeping soundly in their beds. And, they were safe all along. But there were moments where I wasn’t so sure…..
Today was like any normal, chaotic day. My kids woke up slightly late, were running around like maniacs trying to get themselves presentable for picture day. We had countless arguments on the way out the door this morning about who grabbed who’s snack and put it in the wrong backpack, why someone couldn’t find their shoe, who still hadn’t brushed their teeth or combed their hair (despite me nagging them to for at least an hour), and who changed the YouTube channel (even though we are literally walking out the door). You know, the normal morning shit-show routine.
I dropped my kiddos off at school and spent the day cramming in work, cleaning the house, doing some laundry — caught up on the really “fun” stuff parents get to do when they work from home or stay at home during the day while raising kids and find themselves with some downtime.
I actually had thought quite a few times today about how nice it is to have a free day to myself for a change and not have to entertain at least one kid for 8 hours straight. I daydreamed about how I could take a nap, if I wanted to. I could meet a friend for lunch. I could go shopping, alone. I could go for a run (HAAA!) Ok, that’s a stretch, but you get the point. So many things I was appreciating today as I sat home and worked, cleaned, and folded in peace.
And then, before I knew it, the time had come to leave so I could get to school early enough to park in pick up lines and start rounding up my kids from various schools.
I left the house, drove my normal route and about a block away from school I started noticing lights blinking. As I got closer, the sirens were starting to register from each direction surrounding my car. I could see more and more police presence, but not enough to cause panic… yet. I take a main road in town to get to my first child’s pickup and so traffic stops were not extraordinary or unusual considering the police tend to stake out these areas for speeders, especially during the school hours when kids are present.
I still wasn’t going to let my irrational anxiety get the best of me. Not yet. But as I went to turn down the quieter, calmer street that directs me straight to the school I realized it, too was blocked off. Multiple police vehicles and what looked (to me) like riot gear being pulled out of the back of one of the squads.
Ok, WTF is going on? Now I’m nervous. But still trying not to let myself completely lose it. I hadn’t heard anything from the school, or other parents. Certainly if there was an emergency parents would have been made aware? Right?
I drive around the block only to find that the other side (and the only other street I can take to lead me to the school) is also blocked off by multiple police cars and NOW I panic. What the fuck is going on here? IS MY KID OK? Why has no one warned us about this?? And… IS MY KID OK???
Being the crazy, loving, borderline mother I am I run out of my vehicle in the middle of the road and start flagging down the nearest officer I can find because I NEED details! And that is when he assures me that my child is safe, all of the kids inside are. But there has been an incident at a home near the school and the school is on lockdown. To keep the children safe inside.
Parents are congregating on the outskirts of the school. People were in tears, others were telling nervous jokes, I was calling my mom on redial over and over to help me round up my other kids who’s bell was about to ring on the other side of town and I was not about to leave this scene.
I needed to SEE my kid. To touch her, to smell her, to love on her as much as possible. I immediately regretted any feeling of peace or relief for my free time earlier today.
I was beating the shit out of myself for even letting those thoughts cross my mind. I should not be thanking my lucky stars for 8 hours sans kids. I should be thanking my lucky stars for every single goddamn moment I have with those sweet angels because it could change in a SECOND and there is no taking it back. Time does not go in reverse.
I was mad at myself. Haunted by the scene I couldn’t tear my eyes from because not one officer had come back over to talk to us about any of the details of the situation yet and the kids were still locked up inside. What if there is a bomb? What if they weren’t in a house anymore at all but right by the school? What if….. what if…..
I woke up this September morning reflecting on the events that took place on 9-11 and what I was doing the day the twin towers were hit. I was reminded of the sadness for the loss of so many strangers and the fear for the future of my country. And by the middle of the day a real horror was almost unfolding before my eyes.
The situation was eventually under control and all of the children were released, safely and a man was taken into custody for discharging a gun near a home very close to the school in an unrelated-to-school incident.
So tonight I am thankful that what happened to me today was nothing in the grand scheme of things. A story I might tell as this “crazy thing that happened” but not more. It won’t change our family. We aren’t grieving or missing anyone tonight because today was a freak coincidence.
But, I am aware enough to know that there are people in this world who have witnessed that same scene at their child’s school as the unthinkable was going on. People who have lost and hurt and had their hearts ripped out of them because someone had brought harm into a place that was supposed to be safe. For learning, for socializing, for independence and support. Not for fear, worry, and trauma.
I’ve never been so scared in my life, and *nothing* serious even happened. But it was a terrifying reminder of the world we live in and the real possibility that things could have been very different.
Tonight I am hugging my kids just a little tighter, reading the extra story they ask for that normally annoys me, and making sure if they want some water, I’m getting it… WITH ice. And with a smile on my face. When they call me back into the room because they forgot to tell me they love me, I will give them ten more kisses before bed instead of telling them to go to sleep. And when they ask me to come check on them, I will. Many times.