I got a call this morning from Tre's school. Actually, a robo-call, which I simply cannot get enough of - except, perhaps, for the time they accidentally set the call to go out at 1 AM, and I was jolted out of a deep sleep to hear the robotic voice urge me to make every effort to get my student to school on time. That was annoying.
This time, however, the call started with "Hello, [Tre's school] parents. Please do not be alarmed."
It immediately made me think of biblical stories of angels, urging the person they're appearing to not to be afraid. I've always thought opening with that would be, right off the bat, somewhat frightening. And maybe it's because it wasn't an angelic voice on the line, but a robot, but sure enough, I felt an automatic surge of anxiety.
Apparently there was a lockdown at the school today. A woman had wandered in off the street, made comments about killing herself, and then disappeared. Although all doors were locked as soon as the office was notified, and the police were called, she was gone before anyone got there. They did say she was found, safe, at home later. It made me wonder though...how do you find an unknown person's home? It sounds like the kind of happy ending you make up for a child to tie up a discomfiting story.
When the message was over, I pressed the button to hang the phone up, very softly, and sat still. I had a moment of anger at the poor woman for picking a school for her event. I mean, holy cry for help, batman. Couldn't she have picked the nearby Starbucks? Dairy Queen? Any other building that didn't have four hundred children in it?
But hey, I suppose being angry at someone with obvious mental health issues for not looking around and making the best choices is like being angry at someone in a blindfold for not appreciating the sunrise. I hope she really was found at home, and is safe tonight.
About a week after Tre started school, an elementary school in town was locked down because of a guy with a gun. No one was hurt, as I remember, but I listened to the reports in a cold sweat, imagining Tre behind those locked doors. I wasn't sure I would survive the wait to know that he was okay. I was still getting used to the idea of my child living so much of his life out there, away from us. Everything seemed so very insecure, like the feeling of driving down the road with no seatbelt.
I waited, today, for thepanic to come. But although the situation sounded very strange and very sad, I believed that Tre was fine. I wanted to hear what he thought about it, but I doubted it was a terrible experience for him (as it turns out, he thought it was just a drill all along. His English teacher had refused to interrupt class and turn off the lights like he was supposed to, a sentiment I sort of sympathized with).
It's not like I believe the school to be unassailably safe. Even if it were, there is ample opportunity for disaster on the drive there and home every day. From every direction, in every situation, I can imagine a thousand forces that threaten the people I love. And there are a thousand more that I can't imagine.
But I choose not to devote too much time to the work of mentally fencing off the possibilities. Something terrible could happen, it's true. But if I capitulate to the fear, something terrible has already happened.
For tonight we are all here, and we are all okay. I am not alarmed.