In March 2018, I was going to meet a friend at the local Panera in Princeton, New Jersey. We were both running late, which was fortunate. She entered the building as people fled—there was a suicidal gunman inside.
I was on the sidewalk, not understanding the commotion. I took refuge in the neighboring bookshop. Police told us to evacuate. The bookseller said to leave my stroller and flee out the back. I ran in a panic, not knowing exactly where the gunman was, or who he was after. The gunman died that day, but no one else did.
In December 2018, I was caught in an active lockdown during a school author visit. For 45 minutes, we believed someone was roaming the halls, until a text explained it was a phoned-in threat. I couldn’t stop thinking about the kids after that experience.
These experiences haunted me until I wrote a book to ease anxiety for children. One Thursday Afternoon (Flyaway Books) is aimed to help adults and children have a conversation about lockdown drills, with a focus on nature, conversation and creativity as tools to reduce anxiety.
But I have no answers to offer children.