The door burst open into the dark room. I was under my desk in the corner, behind my rolling chair. I couldn’t see their faces, but I could see five uniforms behind five guns aimed at my racing heart. I could hear their rapid-fire shouting just fine.
“Hailey police! Get off the floor! Get off the floor! Hands up! Freeze! Hands up! I said hands up! Freeze!”
I don’t know how fast or slow it happened, but I was off the floor, my hands were up, and I couldn’t move even if I wanted.
“Who are you? Why are you in this room? Who are you? Why are you in here?”
Finally, one of them asked me, “Are you a teacher?”
He stepped close enough that I could see his face. I’d seen this officer around—a young guy who thought he might have just captured a school shooter.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m a teacher.”
It was my prep period when the intercom system announced the lockdown, and I was working at my desk. I locked my door, turned off the lights, and pulled the blinds just like we had done in our drills. Then I continued working.
When a half-hour passed, and I heard police checking the bathrooms on the other side of the wall, I knew it wasn’t a drill, and I got under my desk.
I sent a text message to my wife: “Lockdown at the middle school. No details yet, but it’s not a drill.”
She responded right away: “Yikes. Keep me posted. Be careful. Love you.”
Minutes later, she wrote, “Don’t be a hero. Get out.”
She had heard sirens. There were helicopters and ambulances and police in the street.
I’m by myself in my room. I can hear the resource officers checking the bathrooms.
“Well, if you hear anything, break the window and get out of there.”
It was a warm, sunny day. I thought I’d be taking a quick walk outside, but as the bell transitioned from my prep period to lunch, I remained huddled under my desk. Now I was thinking I might run. I didn’t need to break the window. I could open it, pull out the screen, slip out easily into the daylight, and run home.
We often hear the same arguments about school shootings, about arming teachers, or at least allowing us the option.
“Teachers need to step up and protect our most sacred treasure—the children!”
“Teachers need to take responsibility instead of waiting while the police do their job for them!”
“Teachers need to understand that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun!”
A principal I worked with, at a different school in a different state, kept a gun strapped behind his lower lumbar. He encouraged us to follow suit.
He said, “I want them to know that if they’re firing at us, we’re firing back!”
Back then, I didn’t fire back with opinions, but after those police busted into my classroom ready to shoot, I’m glad I wasn’t standing there with a gun. I’m glad they hadn’t come in to see me fleeing the scene. I’m glad to be alive. Those good guys with guns had no idea that I wasn’t the bad guy.
“How did you know about the lockdown?” an officer asked.
“The intercom system,” I said.
“Did you hear any gunshots?”
“No,” I replied.
“OK,” he said. They promptly left the room, closing the door behind them.
Some kid had popped a balloon.
Keith Wilson is an English teacher at Wood River Middle School. The school was locked down on May 17 during a police response, when the sound of a balloon popping was mistaken for a gunshot.