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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

On Lockdown

Those have to be the two scariest words a parent could ever read when it comes to their kiddos at school.  Those two words are the ones my eyes focused on in the email I got at 12:55 this afternoon from Lucas' school.  His school was "on lockdown."  The cops were there, an increased presence, they said.  For more information they told us to come to a staging area.  My throat went dry, my stomach flipped and my heart nearly beat out of my chest as I read those words over and over and over again.

Stan and I were running errands together.  We stopped at the dry cleaner and Stan jumped out to pick up his shirts.  Since I was alone and a little bored, I decided to check my email.  That's when I saw the message from the county spokesman.  And then the texts came in from my friends.  "Have you heard from Lucas?"  "How is Lucas?"  "Is Lucas OK?"  Oh shit!  If my friends knew about it this had to be all over the news.  Their kids weren't students at Lucas' school.  Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!!  My heart raced faster as those words looped through my head.  All alone in the car, I kept grabbing the handle of the car wanting jump out and run into the dry cleaners, grab Stan to tell him we had to race as fast as we could to the staging area.  But then I thought I'd look like a deranged, crazy person as I pictured myself running in shouting in a panicky voice that we had to go NOW!  Instead, I decided to gather my wits and will him to get back to the car NOW!

As soon as Stan opened the door I said, "We have to to go to Cross Ridge NOW!"  The hysteria was beginning to bubble in my chest as scenes of other schools' tragedies played through my head.  I could see, in my head, streams of kids running from their high school.  I could picture Lucas being led to safety by police squads.  I could picture carnage and crying parents.  I could picture every single scene I'd ever seen on TV, but this time it involved my kid and the kids of my friends.  This time it was our school and our kids.  I read Stan the email as he threw the car in reverse and headed toward the staging area where police waited to give us news about our kids.

As we drove I tapped out this frantic text to Lucas.

Me:  Are you ok?!?!?!  Please answer me.  I don't care if you get your phone taken away.

It seemed like it took forever for Lucas to answer as Stan flew through the streets filled with people going through their daily lives without a care or concern about what was happening at our high school.  I willed them to move almost as much as I willed Lucas to respond.  Finally...

Lucas: Yes I'm fine.  Don't worry.  The police are leaving now.
Lucas:  Sorry I didn't answer I had no 3G

Lucas answered.  He was fine.  He was safe.  If he was fine and safe the whole school must have been fine and safe too.  I finally exhaled the breath I had been holding since I read the email.  This is the text chain Lucas and I exchanged.

Me:  Oh thank God!!!!!
Me:  What happened??

Lucas: I will tell you later.

Me: Ok.  Stay safe and I LOVE YOU!!!!

Lucas:  I love you too, and don't worry I'm fine
Lucas:  Swat guy just came in the room with an M-16 checking on us and the kid is in custody.

Me: Oh thank God!!!!  I've never been more scared in my whole life!!

Lucas: We are all fine.  There is nothing to worry about.  I love you
Lucas:  The kid wasn't on campus but he was close!

Me:  How did they find out about him?

Lucas:  All I know is it was a male.  The police probably know more.

Me:  According to the news reports he was disturbed mentally.  Do you know who it was?

Lucas:  I know a lot of people that are disturbed mentally but I couldn't narrow it down.

God love Lucas and his levity!

Me: You just totally cracked me up!!

Lucas:  Good

About an hour later this is the text I got from Lucas....

Lucas:  You should definitely pick me up.  Lockdown is over.

In between Lucas' last text and the text asking me to pick him up, I texted Zach and asked him if he heard about Lucas' school.  The boys are at two different area high schools.  I figured the kids at Zach's school had heard about Lucas' school but I didn't know for sure.

Me:  Did you hear about Lucas' school.

Zach:  Yes.  I'm texting him.

The big brother.  My heart swelled.

Me:  Good!  I love you!!

The drama seemed to be over but I couldn't get the scenes out of my head and I couldn't stop thinking about Lucas' request to pick him up.  I remembered so many years ago when 9-11 happened and I wanted to pick up Zach from kindergarten.  Stan's advice was to just leave him at school.  He said he'd be fine.  I wanted Zach by me then almost as much as I wanted Lucas by me now.  I needed to go get him.  The instructional day was shot to shit as soon as the lockdown started.  I called the school to make sure I could get him and was given the green light.  I put my car in drive and headed it toward Lucas.

This is what I saw as I pulled up to school...



The line of cars waiting to turn in surpassed the driveway in to school and the left turn lane.  The media was there in droves.  The police presence was still massive.  The student population was beyond ready to leave and be home with their families.

The tears were threatening to spill again.  I needed Lucas.  I needed to hug him.  I texted him to let him know I was there.  I didn't know how this was going to play out.  I didn't know how long it was going to take me to get him, but I knew I'd do whatever I needed to see his smiling face.  Seeing his smile would take my tears away.  

I walked toward the front of the school after parking my car.  The police were there, keeping everything orderly and calm.  The parents shared a bit of community and camaraderie.  We were all in this together, and we knew it as we chatted quietly and waited for our children to come to us.  Lucas' face finally appeared just beyond the glass doors.  His smile was quiet and his wave is reserved, but he was there and he's safe.  

We walked to the car together and Lucas' stories came out...  

The lockdown is announced.  No one knows if this is real or a drill.  The teachers haven't heard about a planned drill.  It's real.  The first police enter the building with riot gear.  They're followed by police rifles, police snipers and the Swat Team.  They go door to door.  Sometimes bursting through and demanding hands up from students and teachers alike.  In Lucas' room the policeman enters, introduces himself and makes sure they're safe.  Some classes are in a hide and lock status.  Some, like Lucas', are not.  Some classes are searched vigorously for guns and ammo.  Some are secured.  The police presence grows.  The teachers work to keep the students calm.  Most of the student body remains composed, but there are some tears and anxiety.  The kids see the pictures coming in from news sites.  The pictures come in from Twitter.  The kids see it as we were seeing it.  Social media spread the news like wildfire.  Slowly, methodically, the lockdown ends with a young man in custody and the police packing up their weapons.  The lockdown is over.

My heart stops racing as I hug, touch and pat Lucas, over and over and over.  He tells me about the texts between Zach and him.  Zach's worry was evident as I read through the texts when we got home.  Lucas worked hard to keep us both calm.  When Zach first texted him with "What's going on at your school?"  Lucas responded with "We're on lockdown.  But don't tell mom.  I don't want her to freak out."  Zach texts back and says he won't and then went on to ask so many times, "Are y'all hiding?" and "Are you still locked down?"  Lucas responded with things like "No.  We're still in the same class and it's boring."  Or, "The swat guy just came in with an M-16 and it was hype!" Or better yet, "This is boring AF!"  (I'll leave you to figure that one out.)  Lucas is one of a kind who worked so hard to be a protector of us all.  

I can't tell you how appreciative I am of Lucas' school, his teachers, the administration, the counseling office, the school resource officer and especially the entire Henrico County police force for the their swift response, organized actions and quick location of a student who we now know needs help coping with something he couldn't work through on his own.  Every single department in the school and the police force took this situation seriously.  All of our kids are safe and home with us now because of them.  Things could have been much different if all of these entities didn't.  My thanks to them knows no bounds.

Lucas is home.  Neither he, nor his friends are on lockdown anymore.



For the love of all of our children...  


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