“Yesterday morning as I drove my four young children to their elementary school a cop car blew past us, sirens blaring. Little did we know that just 2 miles away, chaos was unfolding. I dropped my kids off in front of the school and found a parking spot, as my kindergartner was having a Thanksgiving play that morning in the multi-purpose room. As my husband and I were walking up towards the school, we were met by a rush of panicked parents informing us that there was a shooting at our local high school, that multiple students had been wounded, and that the shooter was still at large. They also said that our own elementary school was now on lockdown as a precaution.
Immediately chills washed over my body as I looked at my kids’ school just 50 feet away. I can’t explain the feeling of knowing that my children were in there and that they may be scared and freaking out, and there was literally nothing I could do but pray and trust that the administration was caring for them. I also felt suddenly exposed. At this point, we had no idea if the gunman had hopped in a car, had taken off on foot or where his location was. Standing in the open with my young toddler, left me feeling a twinge of fear. After a series of messages and reassurances from the school administration that our kids were safe inside, we decided to head home to our house just down the road.
Over the next two hours, multiple helicopters hovered above our home, sirens blared nonstop as more and more ﬁrst responders headed to the high school, and there was a constant ﬂow of texts and phone calls as family and friends checked in to make sure we were safe. My eyes remained glued to the TV as we watched our neighborhood sadly take its turn in the national spotlight being the victim of yet another senseless school shooting.
My heart literally dropped as the news cameras showed glimpses of backpacks laying all over the campus, abandoned as students took off running for their lives, knowing full well that some of these backpacks likely belonged to the children of some of my friends. As news came in that the ﬁrst victim had passed away, tears started rolling down my face. No! Not here in our town! Not one of our kids! I can’t even fathom the anguish the family members of these kids are going through.
My children have come home on multiple occasions talking about the active shooter drill they had done at their school that day. As we sat around the dinner table those nights, we would hear stories of them practicing hiding from a gunman. They would recall all the ways they had learned to avoid bringing attention to their classroom during an active shooter event. Every time they would tell me about this, it would break my heart a little. Was this really something that my young children had to practice? Oh how I wish those were just useless drills. But no, yesterday they put those rehearsals into action as their teachers yelled out, ‘this is not a drill!’
I had to head into work before school got out, so all day, I was on edge as I wondered how my children were handling the situation. I couldn’t wait to FaceTime them as soon as they got home. My daughter answered the phone ﬁrst and immediately began to detail the morning to me. Her voice shook a little as she described a chaotic scene as nobody was quite sure at ﬁrst whether the gunman was near their school or still at the high school. All they knew is to do what they had been taught to do.
‘We turned off the lights in the classroom, closed the blinds, and all laid quietly on the ﬂoor in the corner for what felt like a really long time. I was so scared,’ she told me.
She is just 9 years old.
Next my 10-year-old got on the line.
‘We were outside lining up for the day. I saw my teacher running toward us in high heels,’ she described. ‘Then she yelled at us to run to our classrooms.’
My daughter said kids were climbing over each other as they ran up the stairs, not certain what exactly they were running from. She and her friend grabbed hands and darted into the nearest classroom. There was no teacher in that room but together about 6 kids hid under desks until they peaked through a crack in the blinds and spotted a teacher to run to.
Hearing my kids describe this scene was so hard take in. I began to comfort them and talk them through the situation via FaceTime as their grandma sat next to them on the couch rubbing their arms. This is not the ﬁrst time we have had to talk to our kids through tough situations. We have always tried to be open and honest with them when tragedies occur in our community or nation, while keeping the information age appropriate. But it never gets easier. It never gets easier to see another little piece of their innocence get taken away. Watching their little minds process the horror that a human can be capable of, while assuring them that they are safe is a delicate balance.
As they stare at us with eyes wide, we reassure them we will always do everything in our power to keep them safe, but that ultimately God is the one who is in control. We encourage them to pray for the families and the victims, not in a ‘thoughts and prayers’ ﬂippant kind of way, but in a real stop what they are doing and lift up these families in prayer kind of way. We also encourage them to look for ways to be kind to others. Not just during the hard times, but in the normal day to day activities. Look for the kids eating alone, invite the kid with no friends to play handball with you, keep your eyes open for kids who might be hurting.
These conversations may never get easier, but we are thankful for the role we get to play in our children’s lives. That we get to be the ones to be by their sides as they experience these tragedies and that we get to comfort and guide them. I am so, so thankful that as I got home from work last night, I got to peak into each of my children’ s rooms and see them peacefully sleeping in their beds. I don’t take it for granted that I got the privilege to kiss each of their foreheads goodnight. I know that there are parents right down the street for me who will never get to kiss their child goodnight again. For them my heart is truly broken. Holding on to the scripture: ‘The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.’ – Psalm 34:18”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Shannon Henson. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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