To the Editor:When a nation allows people to buy assault weapons more easily than they can obtain a driver’s license, when disturbed and alienated young men can stockpile ammunition from the Internet, teachers are not surprised.
They have been rehearsing for just this nightmare two to three times a year at every school in America, from Marin County to Martha’s Vineyard. Where once they practiced fire drills and ushered children out nearest exits in orderly rows, now they instruct them to huddle in blind corners, clutch hands, close their eyes, and escort them past armed police to another shelter. Here they are indefinitely deputized as guardians of their minions in the most poignant interpretation of “in loco parentis.”
Teachers are not surprised.
Lock down, evacuation, secondary staging, incident command, assigned spokesperson, emergency headquarters, walkie-talkies, safe exodus – this is the new vocabulary of classrooms across this county, the pitiless primer all teachers have read.
From the first crackling of the front office PA, with the ominous poppings in the halls, the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary, like every teacher in the U.S., knew exactly what to do. No code words were necessary. No special instructions. One teacher opens her classroom door to snatch two children to sanctuary. Another reads aloud to her five-year-olds. “I needed to keep them calm,” she says. A third, huddled in a bathroom, exclaims, “I love you all,” so they will be the last words they might ever hear. Comfort, reassurance, devotion.
Chilling and prescient, the audible cues alone translate now into immediate response. Lock doors, draw shades, flee to closets. Administrators and counselors rush to intercept. These are the rehearsed day-mares that keep them up at night.
So they are not surprised.
After Newtown, Connecticut, teachers in America have become the front guard, the unarmed soldiers sent out into the schools to shield our children from what we as a nation refuse to fix.