The day had been planned for more than a week. My husband was taking the day off so we could spend it together. It was our 9-year Anniversary. For some strange reason, the day we planned went nothing like we had hoped.
It started off with me being sick. The day before I had awaken to the beginnings of a cold. By the next day, it had turned into more. Lovely. Nothing like being sick on a special day. My husband joked with me that it was my turn this year, the day we got married was his turn. We somewhat laughed, remembering how he stood at the alter with 101 degree fever. Not exactly funny, but we knew we would get through this too! Not the most romantic thing in the world, let me tell ya!
We made the best of things- on our wedding day, nor Wednesday of this week, our anniversary.
He went out and bought me my sinful addiction- Pumpkin Spice Cappuccino. The warmth of the liquid was heavenly on my sore throat. We snuggled with the 3-year-old and watched some TV together.
A bit later, we went to lunch, and had what would be our only anniversary celebration to speak of, this year…. at least on the actual day.
After lunch, we headed home to wait for the older kids to come home. Once again, we snuggled on the couch, just enjoying the day as best we could with me being sick.
It was time for the kids to come home. I made the usual afternoon preparations. Water was poured for all of the children; afternoon medication was put out for the two on medication; overhead light turned on for homework time; a glass of water for me as I sort through paperwork, sign folders and listen to reading fluency; and one last stop by the restroom before our afternoon became the loving chaos of a home with 5 children.
But something wasn’t right.
The kids were not coming through the door when they should be. I started pacing, watching the clock. It was already 3 minutes past usual time for them to be home. (Yes, I know… 3 minutes is not really a long time, but in a mommy’s mind, 3 minutes is an eternity.)
My husband is not as familiar with the routine, and asked what time they usually got in. I told him they were late. So he decided to walk out to look for them. They were not walking down the street, but, strangely enough, neither were any other children.
Usually by this time, our entire neighborhood is teaming with children of all ages walking home from school. We live in the neighborhood right next to the school, so most of the children in the neighborhood walk home in the afternoon. Our children were allowed to start walking home last year, after much fretting on mommy’s side of things. I realize I have to let them grow up, but it is not easy!
My husband and I quickly got the 3-year-old and jumped in the car to see what was going on. It was obvious when we turned the corner that things were not the norm. Cars were backed up down the street, we still saw no children, and parents were getting out of their cars, talking to one another, gesturing in frustration. Several parents were walking back down the hill from the front of the school, and talked to other parents along the way. I quickly called on a phone appointment I was supposed to have at 3:00 and explained that I would have to reschedule. It did not look like this was going to be over “in just a few minutes”.
When we left, it never occurred to me I was still in my nightclothes. When we got in from lunch, I changed back into my comfy clothes to be comfortable. Being sick is bad enough, why not be comfortable?
It also did not occur to me that I was not the most presentable, until I am standing in the middle of the sidewalk talking to another parent, trying to find out what is going on. All she knew was that the school was locked down, they were not giving any information to parents, and they were not allowing anyone to leave.
I had my cell phone, and had already been trying to call the school. All I got was voice mail. I tried to look up the district number, but in my frustration I couldn’t find the phone number. We turned around and headed back home so I could get dressed, and to see if we could find something online about what was going on.
Once back at home, I finally found the school district phone number, and immediately started calling. I never got an answer, just more voice mail. I called back several times, trying different extensions. Once again, not a single answer. I again tried to call the school several times, but still no answer.
The only thing we could find out was this blurb on the local news website, which has now been updated to say the lockdown is over.
So the first information we received was from the local news media. It would still be almost half an hour before we would be able to find out any “official” information from the school.
The lockdown was officially lifted, and we were able to get our kids at approximately 3:25 pm, almost a full hour from normal release time. Thankfully, one of my dearest teacher friends at the school was at the door, and knew that I was very emotional. My words to her, as I fought to stay calm and rational were, “I know it is not your fault, but not a single phone call! We could not get through to anyone to find out what was going on! This is unacceptable!” I knew she would understand where I was coming from and not take it that I was blaming her. She was my soft landing place as I fought back panic. Mrs. T, you truly are an angel! It wasn’t long before another angel appeared with the first of my four school-aged children. Mrs. Hudson, you too were an angel that will never know how truly grateful I was to see you! My appreciation did not show, as I was angry and emotional, but again, I knew she would know where I was coming from.
We finally had all 4 kids, with the 3-year-old in tow, and headed towards the car. My husband said, as we were walking back to the car, “There will be no homework tonight!” He would receive no argument from me!
When we got home, we saw that we finally had a call from the school district. 3:28pm, just 2 minutes before I’m walking in the door with my children. The real question is this: Where were all the school officials at the district office during this lockdown?
We showered the children, and sat down to talk. We asked them if they knew what had happened, why they were locked down, if they had any questions or concerns, which of course, there were many. We talked through everything, answered questions, but still they did not understand why they were not going to do homework. They know what is expected of them, and I am sure they wondered what had happened to mommy!
We popped popcorn and put a movie on. They asked once again if I was sure they were not going to do homework. I told them that after the stress of the day we were just going to relax and enjoy each other as a family.
We ordered in pizza, and after they ate, it was off to bed for them. After the eventful day, we decided to eat the left over pizza. While it was not the romantic day we had planned, it was definitely a blessing in disguise! Had my husband not taken the day off, I would have been home by myself, sick, trying to deal with the crisis and getting no answers. God knew I needed him home with me!
Thursday morning after I took the kids to school, I sat down and wrote emails to all four teachers, explaining my very terse note in each folder from the evening before telling them that my children were not doing homework and would not be made to make it up. I received prompt responses, stating they completely understood.
It wasn’t long before my phone was ringing. It was the principal calling to tell me that one of the teachers had forwarded my email to him and he wanted to make sure I was ok. I assured him I was not ok, and welcomed our conversation.
He walked me through the entire event, and I found out he did not even know the details of what was going on until the lockdown was almost over. While I understand that his job is to keep all the children and staff safe, and I am VERY grateful that he takes that as seriously as he does, there should be someone who is available to communicate with the parents. Maybe it is someone from the district who can walk among the parents who are asking so many questions. Maybe it is a robo-call saying there is a lockdown, everything is under control, we will give you information as soon as we can. Maybe it’s a skywriter. The point is, with no communication at all, people start to panic- as much as we try (at least most of us) to stay calm, these are our children! OUR CHILDREN!
Seeing my beloved country disintegrate before my very eyes, no matter how hard I fight to save her, does not make the situation any better. While trying to stay calm and sane in a situation where I’ve been given no information is a challenge. All kinds of images go through your mind- from “another Columbine”, to an irate parent, to a terrorist attack. We’ve all seen it in the news- Primary Schools and Kindergarten Schools that have seen violence across the world are numerous, and many are in the United States. September 1, 2004, in Russia is the most devastating!
On top of not knowing what was going on, no one was allowed to remove their children. So now we have the inner battle against the nanny state setting in. I am tired of the Public Education System thinking they know better than me what to do with my child!
After a very lengthy conversation with the principal, he told me that with what I had told him, it was obvious that something had to be done regarding communication with parents in a situation like this. He told me he would start working on getting that taken care of. Public Education missed the mark yesterday. Yes, all children were safe, which is the most important thing. However, Judson Independent School District (JISD) missed the marked by not communicating with parents until the event was over. This is totally unacceptable!
In my conversation with the principal, I told him that I was already working on this article, and his phone call had made all the difference in the world. Had he not called, this article would have had a completely different tone. While I am still not happy with what happened yesterday, to know that Mr. Large actually listened to me, and took it upon himself to hear and understand that things MUST be different in a future situation like this, makes a world of difference.
Communication is the key to any problem. Without it, we will get nothing accomplished. With it, we will conquer the world’s largest problems. We must get involved. We’ve sat silent for too long. While things are not solved at this point, I know I have been heard. However, I will not be placated. I am fighting for my children, for my beloved country… the country I know and love. I miss the beautiful shine of my beloved country. She has become so sullied with political correctness and big government. This is not at all what our Founding Fathers intended our country to be! They warned us with their words of wisdom. One way or another, I will win this fight- for my country, and for my children, so help me God!
A special thank you goes out to Jennifer Lloyd with MySA.com/Express News. Your ongoing communication is greatly appreciated!