Editor’s Note: There have been 153 school shootings in America since 2013, amounting to more than one campus shooting per week. Needless to say, the repeated attacks have schools on edge.
Just on Dec. 17, the Long Beach Unified School District received its own threat of violence prompting an investigation. Below, VoiceWaves reporter Jessica Salgado recalls her recent experience of a separate incident — a shooting scare at an East Long Beach elementary school.
I was running late to my job as a teacher’s aide. It was an unusually hot October day in Long Beach, so when I finally got to work I was still feeling flushed from the heat. Other than that, it all felt like a normal day. The kids – about 14 5-year-olds – started cutting out skeletons for Halloween, while the principal’s voice came over the PA, announcing that district officials would be visiting our classroom in five minutes.
Two minutes later came a very different kind of announcement – the school was on lockdown. “This is not a drill.”
I moved as fast as I could, shutting the blinds and unsure if any of this was even real. Each year, the Long Beach Unified School District holds lockdown drills in all its elementary schools, but that day was not. I kept repeating the words in my head: “This is not a drill.”
We gathered all the kids from the halls into the classroom, locked the doors, closed the blinds, and tried to be quiet. As fast as my feet raced, my mind, did, too. “Is this real? Is this really happening?”
I then noticed that the door window was left uncovered and I panicked, unable to find something to cover it. Then, through the window, I saw the school secretary. Her expression eased my fears. “I got this,” it said.
I moved my kindergarteners to the carpet in the middle of the classroom and handed out books. I told them to just look at the pictures, since they are too young to read. I then decided to read to them, not aloud but in whispers. The children seemed intrigued, even happy. Inside, I was terrified. I did not know if there was actually a shooter around, but I was ready to protect these children at all costs.
About 20 to 30 minutes passed, my nerves in a high state of anxiety, before the principal came back on to say that we were safe. At that moment, processing everything that had just happened, I did not know how to feel. I was happy to be alive.
None of us were ever given details of what prompted the lockdown. Local media never reported it. I later learned from a teacher, who searched for the answer on the Internet, that an armed person was seen in the apartments across the street from campus, just a few feet away from the gates of our school.
To me, this experience was traumatizing and if real, could have had even longer-lasting effects to my personal well-being. Students who experience traumatic events while growing up in a poor environment could be considered disabled, as reported by NPR.
I may sound a little dramatic, but you do not know whether you would make it out. The experience made me realize how important it is to take care of our youth because they are truly our future. I honestly thought of jumping in front of them if worse came to worst.
My heart sinks whenever I hear about campus shootings on the news. I just think about how selfish these actions are. How can someone be so sick as to harm a child?
After situations like this, gun control often becomes a hot issue. It definitely was a hot topic during last night’s Democratic presidential debate in Iowa. I would personally like to see more mental health awareness throughout the community. People often say that depressed people should “just get over it” but there is a deeper issue. There should really be some support for them instead of pushing them away.
I think that teachers should be trained to emotionally support students during this traumatic event. After an event like that happens, I feel like the situation is not addressed with the students.
Sure these students are kindergartners and half of them didn’t know what was going on but what about the other half that knew? What’s the next step after an event like this occurs?
The day of our shooting scare, school safety did a fantastic job in getting to our campus on time and watching over our wellbeing. Besides high schools having security, we should them in elementary and middle schools.
We need to find ways to prevent things like within our community. It is really tough to find a solution to this situation, but action needs to be taken to keep children and the community safe.