“Goodnight you moonlight ladies. Rockabye sweet baby James.”
Her sweet singing fills the room of kindergarteners as they rest around the big, red rug after playtime. She rubs lavender lotion on the feet of one of the helpers. I sit a few children over with my sweet daughters foot in my hand gently rubbing her ankle and inhaling the sweet fragrance. The teachers exchange a look across the circle and I know it must be almost time.
She stops singing and looks around at the children.
“Any minute now,” she says in a calm voice. “We will hear the call and it will be time.”
All the kids know what is coming. They have been preparing and are ready to spring into action.
“Lockdown.” “Lockdown.” “Lockdown.” Lockdown.”
The calm voice of Amy the secretary spills from the intercom box and fills the room.
The kids crawl over to the wall under the windows. Some hide under a little table. It happens quickly and in silence.
My daughter moves into a fetal position next to me with her head on my lap. Her little friend, just barely 5, grabs my arm tightly and curls into a tiny ball next to me. She really is so small I think. Without conscious thought, my arms reach out and pull them both tightly to me. Protectively.
One teacher locks both doors and then joins us along the wall. We sit in complete silence.
I knew this was coming too, but something happens that I did not expect.
My heart races and the reality of what this is hits me.
Tears threaten to fall and I make myself calm down.
The kids smile at each other. It is a mix of the silent game and hide-and-seek.
A few minutes pass and we hear the front door rattle. Everyone stays still and silent.
A few more minutes pass and we hear the back door rattle. Everyone stays still and silent.
Another few minutes pass and we hear scratching at the window. Everyone stays still and silent.
Throughout the whole time I smile at the kids reassuringly, just as the teachers do. My hands stroke the girls clutched at my sides. I focus on calming my breath. Although they think it’s just a game, I know the reality and it makes my stomach clench uncomfortably.
“All clear.” “All clear.” “All clear.” “All clear.”
The kids smile and are visibly proud that nobody found us. We won the game.
“You can either be a vegetable cutter, rice cake maker or go play” the teacher says and we move forward.
As I make rice cakes with a few children, I realize just how attached I am to these little ones. These are not just the kids my daughter plays with at school. These are the precious, innocent, beautiful centers of their parents’ lives. In that instant I know that I would do anything to protect them. All of them.
I look over at the wonderful women who I trust my daughter with every day and I am hit with such a rush of love and gratitude. I know, without a shred of doubt, these beautiful teachers would do anything to protect my daughter. They, like all teachers, would give their life for these kids.
It is a sad reality that these drills are part of the world we live in. I will never understand how someone could feel so alone, desperate and be that deranged as to shoot kids? But it happens.
Fire drills. Earthquake drills. Lockdowns. “Duck and Cover” drills of decades past. All of these aim at one thing: making us feel like we are doing something.
But, really, we have no control.
No matter how hard we try, horrible things happen every day to nice people who plan ahead and do everything right.
It is not fair and I hate it.
All life is so fragile, yet we spend all our time moving through tasks and stressing about things that are so insignificant.
Of course we do. It’s impossible not to without becoming desperate and deranged ourselves.
So we have to surrender to something outside ourselves.
We have to cling to things like love, hope and prayer.
We have to.
I dump the hot rice into the bowl. My helpers add butter, flour and cheese and take turns mixing up the gooey goodness. We roll out the balls and add them to the pan. Then we eat the sticky pieces off our fingers and giggle.
We move forward.