I was supposed to write the next post about the difficulty of being four hours away from my boys, about trying to figure out if the personal success that I have been having at work was worth the distance that I am away from them. About whether or not I should move back and take the hit professionally to personally feel like I am making the right choice when it comes to my boys that I have always, in every way, put first. I was going to write about how my 15 year old son added up the number of days that I would be spending with them over the course of the next two years, being this far away, and how guilty it made me feel to think of personal success after having been stripped of any and all feelings of such when their mother left two years ago. Then Tuesday happened.
I woke up Tuesday late, just couldn’t get out of bed to save my life. I had a few beers the night before trying to dull the noise that was building in my head about the fact that over the course of the next two years I would see my kids at max 1/3rd of the year because of the distance from where they go to school, live, and choose to remain. I had been going back and forth with the idea of trying to move back to be around them, for a week or two the idea had really become a serious debate. Then a director spoke to me about a promotion, then a leader in another department, a department that I have been trying to join and make my full time role for years, spoke to me in the gym about wanting me to come join his team, that I would be such an asset and just the person his team needed going into the future. My mind had been racing but my boys, I hated being so far away. When the alarm went off Tuesday I hit that snooze too many times. I was running late. I had thought about calling out and just taking a day to think over what my mind wouldn’t allow to escape. The responsible side of me kicked in at just the right time so I got shaved, showered, and dressed and into the corporate office I went.
The morning was slow, answered a few emails, took a few calls, and set up some fact-finding meetings for a project I am heading. At 10 a.m. I had a teleconference with a client and the meeting was ridiculous. I have a low tolerance for stupidity as it is but it was an important client so my phone went on mute to avoid the awkward sighing as they tried desperately to fumble through a job that they should know by now, it is just accounting most businesses don’t need to know this right? I spent the first part of the meeting messaging with a member of my team about the call so far and the lack of focus and direction it entailed. When my phone vibrated at around 10:30 a.m. I looked down and it was my youngest son texting me. We spoke fondly of our old family dog that had recently been put down and then he sent a message that read only “Active shooter outside”. I cannot even type these words without tearing up. “Active…..Shooter….outside”. If anyone is reading this, anyone who is, has ever been, or has even thought about being a parent, these three words will drop you to your knees. Here I was trying to tolerate the stupidity that was being displayed on a conference call that allowed two people from the same outside company to search blindly for answers to their own problems while the walls are falling around me. I have faced many, one away from being all, of my fears over the past two years but something happening to my boys was the only one I hadn’t had to face yet, and had prayed that I wouldn’t. Active shooter outside. Active. Shooter. Outside.
I didn’t even have the ability to think to get off the conference call. There was but a single point of focus. My youngest son was in the school and my oldest son would have been walking in to school at this very time. As I was trying to find out if my youngest was ok I was texting my oldest son to see if he was heading into school. Fortunately he was sick and not going in (the only time that I have been glad that my boy was sick). Knowing he was safe I turned my attention back to my youngest, which at the age of 15 is taller than me and is smarter than me but he is still my little boy and he was locked down in a school with an active shooter outside. He told me he was fine, he told me they were safe, the school sent messages out to the parents saying the kids were fine, saying they were safe but those words don’t mean shit when you are 30 seconds away let alone four hours away. There are no words that can make me 4 hours closer, being able to grab my son, being able to see and know he is safe. There is nothing that can be sent that will put this mind at ease. While chatting with him via instant message I was searching websites for updates frantically. There was nothing, nothing, not a fucking sentence anywhere. My mind is screaming that this should be national news, but instead I see a headline that Kim fucking Kardashian (a human waste of fucking air) had her 37th baby with Kanye “I cannot rhyme words” West, or some new stupid thing our president said that outraged millions. Desperately I am messaging my son back and forth trying to type calmly while fingers and thumbs cannot slow enough to get the words out of my brain. My son is in active shooter lockdown at his school. I grew up knowing Columbine and those are the only thoughts that entered this pathetic brain.
A career criminal robbed a bank across the street from a high school in the capital of Vermont. The nations smallest capital had always felt safe to me when I lived there. There were no worries about walking the streets at any time of day or night. Were there dumbass people who caused trouble, sure there were, were they a real threat, no not at all. It is why I wanted to move there in the first place. He walked from the bank he robbed (who, the fuck, robs a bank anymore? This isn’t the cowboy days?) across the street and sat himself down on the bleachers of the high school football field…..with a loaded gun. Bleachers that my boys and I sat upon after throwing the football, bleachers that once held parents of other students watching their kids play a game, now held a man with a loaded gun. My son sat in the library watching Netflix shows as I messaged him, he sat calmly while a man with a gun sat outside and waited. He has grown up in a world where this happens, I chose to still be shocked by this but they know it and have read about it their entire lives. The school practices procedures now that are meant for these exact scenarios. I grew up practicing kickball, having a fire drill once ever few months, and worrying about a schoolyard bully, not an active shooter.
This story will not make national headlines, it barely made it out of Vermont. There weren’t innocent victims, no kids were harmed (thankfully to those practice runs the school participates in), and the only person hurt was the man with the gun on the bleachers where parents and I once sat. The video online shows the moment that my son was safe, the video shows the moment I could exhale for the first time in two hours, the video shows the moment that any thoughts about my own personal success ended with the sound of police guns firing upon the man that sat outside of my sons school with a loaded gun.
I am no advocate for violence; I wished they could have taken this man alive to face the choices he made. I do not own a gun, I have never owned a gun, I have only fired a gun once, and I do not wish people harm, BUT, but, this is the BUT that I would think every parent feels when placed in this situation, but, I was glad or relieved when it was over. It meant that two parents would not be seeing their child again and I feel terrible about that because if it were my child I would have hoped for a different outcome but it wasn’t; my son was inside the building. My son was scared, no matter how much he tells me he is fine I know he isn’t, my eldest son who joked about “missing all the cool shit” knows he didn’t want to be there that day and was better off at home in his bed watching mind numbing crap on TV. I heard the words that scared me a lot two years ago then I heard the words that scared me more than I have ever been scared in my life. Active shooter outside.