The Most Terrifying Two Hours of Your Life


Michelle So, Campus Focus Editor

There are three things to do when the bell rings and doesn’t stop ringing:

  1. Herd in the stragglers—bathroom-goers and hallway hooligans. Then shut and lock the door. 
  2. Enter a state of silence and darkness. Draw the blinds. Dim the lights. Students in the shadows are safe students.
  3. Get low and stay low. Avoid the things that signal freedom like doors and windows. They are entrances for injury.

When the lockdown bell sounded on Feb. 21, a sheet of despair settled on me. My class, Calculus BC with Mr. Miller, acted mechanically and methodically. Two students ran to pull the door shut while everyone else crouched on the floor. Our teacher whipped out a 9-foot-long wooden pole for pulling down blinds and a walkie-talkie. While he paced the room picking up stray frequencies, all I could think was, “I wish that stick was metal.”

In the absence of light and knowledge of the situation, fear takes on a new meaning. You’re on a roller coaster traveling 200 mph straight down a tunnel of darkness. Echoes of rumors flutter through your mobile screen as the speeding coaster sinks deeper and deeper. Gun. He has a gun. There’s a freshman on campus with a gun! But really, whatever lies on the other end, molten lava, a pit of scorpions, or a chainsaw-wielding psycho, is unknown. All you know is the rhythmic clank of the cart’s wheels on the track ch-chug, ch-chug, and the thumping of your very much, hungry for life heart bu-boom, bu-boom.

For upper middle-class students, this is about as close to an apocalypse as we could get. Like doomsday believers, we prepare for a situation that may very well be tomorrow, next week, or never. Rather than zombies, we fear active shooters. Instead of nuclear warfare, we’ve been tuned to avoid the hail of bullets. As we learned from the Monterey Park shooting in January, no community is truly safe from the threat of gun violence. While this incident happened to be some anonymous threat looking to instill terror, we still need to be vigilant. There is no “real” or “fake” when the lockdown bell rings. Each and every instance needs to be addressed as an imminent threat, even if it seems silly or unnecessary or if you’d rather be getting a headstart on your project. I’m glad the police response was immediate and that everyone made it out safely and without injury. But, I’m tired of going to school scared. 

When the period 1 bell struck the next day, I was visibly jolted. It wasn’t until I checked my watch, “Oh it’s 9:00,” and took several deep breaths that I was able to shake off the feeling of shock. The figurative bodies left in the wake of possible danger—the what-ifs and the could-have-beens—still haunt all of us. An inkling of suspicion still lurks in the back of our minds, in the staff,  in the teachers, and in us, the students. Facing the threat of a shooter plagues America’s scholarly institutions. But we are young, and as such, we are expected to be resilient. So every day, millions of students and I go to school, ready to run, hide, and fight.


Photo courtesy of WIKIMEDIA COMMONS