I was a school librarian in a DC public elementary school for six and a half years until I resigned in January of this year. On October 17, 2017, we thought we had an active shooter in our building and went into a frenzied lockdown. Five seconds after I received a text message from my colleague that said ACTIVE SHOOTER double doors opened and a line of 22 second graders came through, headed to me.
For everyone who is not a teacher, you can imagine this moment: rushing them into the classroom, putting paper over the windows, locking the door. You can imagine what it means to be this kind of adult — one responsible for the lives of 22 children.
Teachers are aware of this responsibility every day. Specialists, like I was as the school librarian, are aware of what it means to be responsible for every student in the building for at least 45-minutes once or twice a week. We know all of them.
What you can’t fully imagine, if you are not a teacher, is the information that will rush through your brain.
Their parents’ faces. The beautiful things these children have said to you over the last few years (the horrible things, too). Every holiday and Teacher Appreciation Day card, every post-it they stole from your desk to write that they love you, the books and authors they like best, their favorite outfits, their favorite read aloud, the bad things that have happened to them that are in case files in the main office, the good things they want to share the moment they see you. The ones who still can’t tie their shoelaces. The strength of each of their hi-fives. Which kids they play with at recess, who eats school lunch and who brings it from home, which ones take the bus, which ones have baby siblings they can’t wait to kiss on the foreheads at the end of the day, which ones have older siblings that they try, hilariously, to emulate, and on and on and on and on.
Non-teachers don’t know what it means to be the keepers and protectors of that beautiful information.
Non-teachers don’t know what it means to recognize in one horrible instant that you are all that stands between them and a bullet if the gunmen makes it to you.
But I never wished for a gun that day. I never wished I had a gun to fight back with.