Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Have you ever wondered...

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to get an alert (call/text/email) about some bizarre, unforeseen, and potentially life threatening situation that has the ability to change the course of your life? 

Yesterday at 3:03 PM the world stopped for several minutes as we all processed the following scenario ... as penned by Sleepy.  

I am sitting in my abnormal psychology class,  a student is asking a question, when the girl beside me interrupts to say she got a campus wide alert that indicates there is an active shooter on campus.  The events that unfold seem to take so much longer than they really did but this is my first hand account of the alert, on 10/19, regarding an active shooter, on my college campus. 

It's as if my ears did not hear correctly. Immediately my thoughts start racing about what is going on.  I grab my phone, and I try to concentrate on the commotion that is going on inside the classroom. Everyone shuffling around, not really knowing what the "right" thing to do is.  I am trying to remember have I ever practiced a drill that would prepare me for this?  Have I ever heard anyone discuss what to do in this situation?  Our professor, turns off all the lights and tells us each to get under a desk.  We are in a lecture hall with six entrances (or exits). Our professor tries to lock them, but she is unable because they are either emergency exits or they lock on the outside.  I think, this does not seem safe. 

While she is attempting to lock the six doors, I am under a desk, and begin texting my parents and boyfriend.  I start by telling them that I love them, and that there is an active shooter on campus, but that I am in class hiding and I am safe.  Am I safe?  I am trying to hold back tears, and attempting to keep my hands from shaking, as I focus on reaching out to my loved ones, not really paying attention to the others in my class and how they are responding.  At one point, I do notice that some students are putting desks in front of doors to make barricades, and taking cover like myself.  Is this really happening? 

A student yells, I got another update!   It seems as if the air is sucked out of the room at that moment.  This student declares that it was a false alarm.  

FALSE ALARM!!  This was the scariest three minutes of my life.  Some of the thoughts that ran through my head included, but were not limited to: 

  •     I need to let my family know that I love them, just in case...
  •     I freaking can't believe this is happening at my school, on my campus! 
  •     Is this going to be okay? 
  •     Why would someone be doing this, and why here?  

Less than a minute after the update, an email goes out explaining that they were testing the emergency software, and this was all a false alarm.  

The school's IT VP sent an email stating the following: 

"At 3:02 this afternoon a False Alert was sent through the Alert messaging system regarding an Active Shooter on campus.  This occurred inadvertently while testing the system.  There is no threat on campus and no cause for alarm.  Steps are being taken to ensure that this type of false alarm does not occur in the future.  Please accept my apologies for any stress or concern that this has caused." 

So after we get the false alarm notification, it was back to class as normal.   As if that was some sort of drill that we had known "might happen" and we were prepared for. (like a fire drill).  

Suffice it to say, during the last 20 minutes of class, that my professor insisted on finishing, is a blur, as it was lost on me.  I would also venture to say it was lost on many of my other classmates as well. Personally,  my nerves were frayed.  My adrenaline kept spiking anytime I heard what I thought was a door opening.  

I was using all my efforts to try and calm myself and refocus my thoughts.  Breathing deeply, remembering it was a false alarm, but none of that took away from the terror I felt for three solid minutes.  Thoughts of "this could have been the day I died or was seriously injured".  How does one transition back into a  learning environment in a short amount of time as if the incident never happened?!  Well let's just say,  I am still a bit unsettled today.  

I am grateful of course that it was a false alarm.  However,  for three very long minutes I did not know it was a false alarm.  My emotions and body fought with one another to understand and  process what was happening around me and potentially to me during that time.   Just because it was a false alarm, doesn't mean that the emotions that we the students and staff felt were not real, and in some cases I would say, traumatic.   

Now as the parent on the other end of the text message from my dwarf,  all I can say is that immediately my heart started racing, my senses became hyper focused, as my desire for more information and details quickly ate up the three minute time span between text number one, "shots fired on campus" and the last text, "false alarm".   

I am also proud of Sleepy in her ability to keep us calm as she relayed the facts to us.   I am not sure I could have stopped my hands from shaking enough to send a text message, let alone several back and forth messages.  I  am also proud of her for her concern for the others in her class that may have anxiety, and struggles that this incident will exacerbate.  

In my conversation with her after the incident, (at the end of class) I encouraged her, knowing her level of stress and anxiety, to seek a school counselor to talk out the incident with and to encourage others to do the same.  While some may have the ability to "shake" this off.  It is important to know yourself and to recognize in others if there seem to be more lingering affects  It is important to recognize if  you are still thinking about the incident, to seek a safe place to work through those feelings and concerns in an effort to offset them returning unexpectedly in the future.  

Yes accidents happen.  We are so grateful that this was just a false alarm. The outcome otherwise could have me writing a different post entirely.   As a mom and a believer, I also trust that the Lord has a purpose in all things.  Did someone on the campus yesterday, my dwarf included, need to go through this situation in order to be prepared for something in their future, only time will tell.   

Rejoicing in a swift resolution.  Grateful for a school of professionals that understand this could be triggering for students and staff and for them providing after care for them.  Trusting the Lord uses all things for His glory.  

You really Can't Make this Stuff Up!