When it comes to school shootings, we’ve become accustomed to wondering not “if” there will be another shooting, but when. It’s beyond disturbing, but the reality is that with alarming frequency, we catch wind of yet another school shooting.
They keep happening. This is real.
Yesterday there was yet another school shooting, this time at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, CA. And while it’s horrifying enough for us to hear about it on the news, imagine what it is like to actually be there as it’s taking place.
Teacher Melody Blair Pellegrin shared a Facebook post describing what went on during the Saugus shooting, & it’s a heartbreaking reminder of the reality of what school shootings are actually like.
Pellegrin’s day started out just like any other ordinary school morning; she was in the process of engaging her first-period class in discussion. It was a typical morning, until:
a student ran into my classroom frantically, shouting, “There’s a shooter!”
It’s terrifying to think that today’s students -our children- live in a world where a statement like that should ever even have to be uttered.
In the split-second it took to process the student’s statement, Melody couldn’t be blamed for initially thinking it was a joke. After all, it would never happen here, right?
The problem is, it CAN happen “here”. “Here” could be any school. And as Melody watched students screaming & running down the hallway, she realized:
This is real.
Melody quickly kicked into action, putting teacher lockdown drill measures into effect.
Because this time, it was not a drill. Lives were really at stake.
After locking the door & turning off the lights, a few of the teachers gathered the students into a huddle on the floor. The teachers barricaded the doors with desks. And:
Another teacher armed himself with a golf club ready to fight back if needed.
We try to imagine what we’d do if we were in the midst of a school shooting.
But we can’t fathom what it really feels like to frantically scramble to try & save lives from an unseen killer on the horizon.
Nor can we know what it feels like to grab a golf club -the only thing nearby that could serve as a weapon- to try and disarm a gunman that may or may not be arriving momentarily.
But Melody knows. So does her colleague. And so does every traumatized student that was in that room with them that morning.
And then they had to wait. They had to be quiet and wait, wondering how many people had been killed, and if they were next.
And Melody describes seeing texts on her watch asking her if she was ok, but being unable to respond. And as they waited:
I sat among terrified students as they texted their loved ones.
Can you even imagine what those text conversations were like?
What does a 15-year-old say to a mother he is afraid he may never see again? What does a father text to a terrified daughter that is locked inside a building with a gunman?
This is real. This really happened.
Melody described how students began receiving bits of vague information:
A student next to me got a text that students had been shot.
In the very same building, people had been shot. Who knew how many at that point?
Maybe they were already dead. Maybe the shooter was making his or her way around the building, coming for them next.
It’s disturbing to think about, isn’t it? Now imagine LIVING IT.
This is real.
After fifteen minutes (which surely seemed like an agonizing eternity), a sheriff arrived & escorted the group out. Even then, as they proceeded out of the building with their hands up,
One of my students turned to me and asked if we were safe since they were walking us out.
It’s beyond sad to think that the student still wasn’t sure if he or she was out of mortal danger, even in the presence of police.
And the sight that awaited them, as Melody described it, was traumatic:
To come around the corner to a sea of cop cars, fire trucks, ambulances parked in front of the school…the sight seemed unreal but…
This is real.
Getting out of the building wasn’t the end of the crisis for Melody, her co-workers, or the students.
Yes, they were alive, thankfully. But the swarm of first-responder vehicles were a reminder that while they escaped, others did not.
The group waiting for a long time at a nearby park that they were directed to; Melody describes how proud she was of her students:
They did exactly as they were trained. They responded immediately. They were quiet. They listen to directions.
They were brave.
She should be proud of them- they certainly were brave, as was she. But the real tragedy is the fact that teenagers even need to be trained to protect their lives from guns in their schools at all.
I am so sad they even had to experienced the trauma of today.
It’s just not right.
I can’t get their faces out of my head.
Melody kept her cool in order to protect her students. She protected them as she was trained to do, and once in safety, she hugged & comforted them.
But she was traumatized by what happened. Wouldn’t you be??
How could students not be traumatized by the reality that they had a dangerously close brush with death, right in their own school hallway?
These students were brave. But they shouldn’t have to face a reality where this kind of bravery needed.
They physically survived Saugus’ school shooting. But as Melody put it, “there is a long road of healing ahead of us”.
And we will feel the pain for the Santa Clarita community. We will mourn the innocent victims. Eventually news about it will fade, as the media moves onto another crisis.
It’s not just tragic because innocent people were shot in school, but because unless something is done to eradicate school shootings, it will happen again.
Melody’s conclusion to her post is a poignant reminder to us about the reality of perpetual school shootings:
It’s not ok that this is real.
I was on campus with my first-period class, which starts at 6:55 am. We were minding our own and discussing the value of…