On the way home from the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, I had a very dry throat. My son was driving me home because my car was part of the crime scene, and I had to leave it at the school, along with my purse, my jacket, my glasses. There was no time to grab anything, just time to get my students into the closet and hide there, silently, until the shooting stopped. We were in the closet for about an hour and a half when the SWAT team came to evacuate us, with guns drawn and helmets and shields. We (myself, three other adults and 18 fourth graders), were instructed to run out of the building, under their protection, because the building wasn’t yet secure. There might still be more shooters.
After many, many hours in the evacuation area, we were on our way home. I asked my son to stop at a gas station to get a bottle of water, something I must have done hundreds of times in my life. As he got out of the car my breath caught in my chest and I felt instant panic. What if there was a shooter in the gas station? How could I let my son go in there? That is when I knew that my life was going to be different. Never again could I say definitively to my students or to my own children, don’t worry, you are safe here. After all, if an innocent and beautiful elementary school atmosphere could be beset by such tragedy, how could any other place ever be safe again?