To start, I’d like to give a little description of my where my story took place. I lived in a southwestern Missouri town with the typical middle-of-nowhere feel. The town itself had a population of only 2,000, and it was just big enough to have its own school district. There were about 200 kids total from pre-K to 12th, and we all shared the same campus. The school was divided into high school, junior high, and elementary wings.
I was in junior high at the time. The building that housed us was old and falling apart. It looked as if someone cut a straight hallway out from the main campus and built a breezeway between them. Because of that separation, it was closer to the street than the other wings.
Specifically, I was social studies when the headache-inducing doorbell sound started. We all had been through intruder drills before. Us students packed into the corner and shut off the lights, while the teacher locked the door. She hushed us as we all sat bored and annoyed on the floor. We were, admittedly, being loud.
It took probably 15 minutes of continuous dinging for the idea to sink into our little 13-year-old minds. This was not a drill. After that, most of us were silent, and even the teacher hunkered down with us away from the door.
I whispered to my friend as she clung to me, “we are going to die.” To that, she started crying. I don’t know why I said it. It was as if I was in a trance.
30 minutes in, we heard distant popping which faded into nothing. The clump of us shook together. I recall this nasty emptiness in my stomach. The chime of the intruder alarm seemed as far away as the pops, though the speaker hung overhead. We could do nothing but wait.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the voice of the principal came over the loud speaker. “Please remain in you class rooms,” and that was all.
High off of existence, us kids sat on the desks laughing loudly and talking nonstop. The teacher abandoned her lesson and rested behind her desk. I imagine she felt the same relief as we did. It took a little over an hour, but the school called all the parents who then came and picked up their children.
We didn’t realize at the time how close we came to dying. While we were studying state history, a shooter had been on his way to the school to kill as many people as he could.
He stopped his truck on the road about a block away from the junior high. He was in the process of removing all his weapons when a good samaritan stopped to see if he was having car trouble. The good samaritan was shot from point blank range and died at the scene. The gunshots quickly alerted police. They were able to hold the shooter at a standoff until an exchange of fire left the shooter and one officer dead. If that good samaritan hadn’t died, the shooter likely would have made it to the school.
In the end, three people died that day. It’s sad, but I’m thankful. There are no happy endings in that evil, cursed town, but there are lucky ones. That day all of us kids got lucky.