Today we had a lockdown drill at our school. We knew it was coming, but not when. The last two have begun during morning break, when everyone was out on the playground. The students know just what to do. They run as fast as they can for whatever room is closest. They get on the floor, away from doors and windows and be very quiet until they are told otherwise. In the past years, these drills have been a source of a great deal of stress for me, but this time, apart from making sure to do everything right, I was without emotion through the whole thing.
Backtrack to May 1, 1992. I was a student teacher in our local high school when we had a school shooting, in the building in which I taught. I was trapped inside with my class of 25 students for seven hours. What happened that day carved a deep rut in my spirit, one which for many years held residues of fear that were easily excavated by seemingly insignificant happenings. When the sheriff came to talk to the staff about what had happened that day and he got it wrong because he was barely a kid then and he was just telling what he’d heard, I got up and left the room. One year I had to leave school early on May first because I couldn’t bear to be at school at the time it’d started. Lockdown drills left me trembling even twenty years later. Heaven help any student who dared joke about any aspect of it.
Today it was different, and I know why. Last summer I met a shaman, Lisa, a fellow writer at the retreat I attended. We talked and as we became acquainted, she asked if I’d been in an accident or something, as she sensed something was amiss with me. I told her, “No, nothing I can think of.” And then, “Well, yeah, actually…” and I told her about the event at the high school. She immediately offered to help me do some work to clear that out of my system. She could tell that it was still affecting my life in some important ways. The work we did was profound. At the end of it she said that she thought things would be different for me, especially in regard to this detritus from the shooting.
And she was right. Today I very calmly and without any particular emotion, did what I had to during the drill, and later, when the students asked, because another teacher told them I was there, I told them the story of that day. I had only told it a very few times in the past 23 years, but today I found I could do it.
I learned so much from Lisa that night. Although I still don’t know how to understand some aspects of it, I think about the things she told me every day, still working through them. I’m so thankful to have this part of myself back. So. Thankful.