As students across the country react to the Valentine’s Day school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida, about 13,000 people participated in Tampa’s “March For Our Lives” on March 24.
Students at schools in Wesley Chapel came out to the event, after many also attended candlelight vigils on February 19 and walk-outs on February 21, remembering and honoring the victims, while showing solidarity with those affected by the shooting and calling for changes to make schools safer.
At Cypress Creek Middle High School, a lockdown caused by an announced “active threat on campus” on March 13 inspired sophomore Brina Gutierrez to write this opinion piece for the school’s newspaper, the Cypress Creek Howler. As it turns out, there was no threat to the campus, but police responded after a student reported seeing a suspicious person walking near the school with what might be a firearm.
Here’s how one student reacted to what might have been a routine procedure just a month before (this piece has not been edited):
The way I thought I was going to react was not how I reacted.
March 13, 2018, almost exactly a month after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre occurred when 17 precious lives were lost. I was working on a memorial for the lives lost for a commemoration event our school had plans for the next day when on the intercom I heard the bone-chilling words:
“Teachers, we have an active threat on campus.”
My mind went blank. Panic began to overwhelm me. I wasn’t in my normal classroom, so the teacher whose room I was in rushed to make sure the door was locked, and cover the windows with paper we had just gotten twenty minutes earlier for the use of the memorial project we were working on, unaware, this was about to happen.
I could feel tears begin to rush down my face and didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t react. I didn’t know where to start or what to do. Everyone seemed to be moving sluggishly as if it were a drill. It just didn’t seem as if we were acting quickly enough. I was both mentally and physically unprepared for this such event.
The day had been normal, besides the slight chill that the air held, which was unusual from Florida’s normal weather. I had recently become more comfortable with the idea of school being safe again and suddenly, that idea shattered into a million pieces for me.
There was nothing I could do to be emotionally or physically ready for this. Time slowed down, seconds felt like minutes. My mind became slightly more coherent as I snapped into action, adrenaline coursing through my veins. I was flipping a table over to act as a barricade and shoving the usually heavy desks with such force that I’ve never had before.
After blockading the room, I immediately began texting my sister, who was in the other building. The fear I felt for her was so immensely palpable I could almost taste it. I didn’t know what was going on or if she was even alive. I didn’t know what was happening. I quickly texted her to see if she was okay and you can not imagine the relief I felt when she texted me back she was alright.
I was quickly ushered into a supply closet and in an attempt to make more room for people, I squeezed myself into a cabinet that was barely a foot high. In that room, I felt every emotion go through my body, but the most dominant was the absolute terror I felt. That terror gripped my soul. It dawned on me at that moment, I wasn’t ready to die.
I had no certainty of what the threat was, but I knew this wasn’t the way or day I wanted to go.
The moment I found out there was no active shooter, I felt like a million pounds lighter. From there, slowly the terror began to let up. Though people were returning to their normal attitudes and actions from before the lockdown, I still couldn’t fathom the idea there was even a potential threat at my school. I still can’t.
The moment I was reunited with my sister and family was a euphoric experience.
Whether or not the threat had merit or not, we need to be proactive with school safety. I can’t continue to have the fear that the place I go to ensure a good future, could also so easily end my future.
This isn’t about whether or not we should have more strict gun control laws. Take the politics out of it for a minute, what all of this is really about is us as students, and you as parents ensuring we are safe at school.
I just want to feel like I can go to school without the threat that I may not go home that same afternoon. I’m supposed to feel safe at school and somewhere along the line, someone failed us. Never again.
We got lucky this time, but what if next time we aren’t as lucky?