I know it's long, but oh well. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to ask questions and comment, I'll answer them to the best that I can.
It all started last night. I come home from a long day of school spent learning absolutely nothing and walk up to the kitchen, searching for food.
My father is standing in front of the Refrigerator. This makes me upset, for I am quite hungry. He says "What do you know about this bomb threat?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"That's what i figured, but we got an automated call from your Principal saying that we should ask about a bomb threat. It sounded urgent." He is still blocking the Fridge door.
"Oh, like the one last year where the kid sprayed on the bathroom wall 'I'm going to boam [sic] this ****ing school'? I'm sure we should all be worried."
"They said it probably wasn't serious, but they insisted that we ask our children to inform us if they knew anything. I just want you to be safe." Then he stepped aside from the Fridge and I stopped listening. Hummus was waiting to be eaten. My father left the kitchen, and I didn't think twice about what he said.
Fast forward to this morning. It snowed all last night and everyone is grumpy and upset that we had to come to school in such horrible weather. I'm sitting in my AP English IV classroom discussing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead with my friend Adam when the PA system blares and the voice of the dreaded Mrs. Marchiando is heard throughout the building. Her voice is strained and she is sobbing. She sounds out of breath--almost as if hyperventilating. "This is Mrs. Marchiando. All faculty members are to engage in a school-wide lockdown. This is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a drill."
Unanimously, as if with one fluid motion, the entire classroom shifts from their desks to the far side of the room, hands reach up and close the blinds, and Kohler, the teacher, locks the door.
There is shouting outside. People in neighboring rooms are getting situated just as we are. There are faint whispers around the room. One by one, people recollect the call from the night before. A bomb. There had been a bomb threat that no one paid attention to. . . but come on, that couldn’t be the case now . . . could it?
The door is flung open. A dean is holding onto a middle-aged Asian woman and four black students. They are thrust into the room, and told to sit down and shut up. They are followed by a Dean’s Assistant. The woman looks scared and confused, but doesn’t ask questions. Again, the room falls to silence, and we sit, waiting for something to happen—another announcement, voices, anything. We don’t have to wait for long. Shortly we hear the sound of sirens pulling into the school, but nothing can be seen through the windows due to the closed blinds.
Then, as if on cue, the room fills with a nearly melodic hum. Cell phones. People start pulling out their phones and, to everyone’s surprise, it’s their parents. Mothers and Fathers, wanting to make sure their children are safe. Our school is on the news. Something is happening, but neither the parents nor the news stations know what—they are just as confused as we are.
We hear the sound of someone running through the hall, and, judging by the voices, he is being chased by a small crowd of people. They pass our room and, without warning, we hear the sound of a body being slammed against a wall of lockers down the hall and some more shouting, but we can’t make out what’s being said.
People across the room start whispering. Mr. Kohler and the DA don’t seem to mind. Everyone is confused, and people start texting students in other rooms, looking for answers. One voice raises above the others “Sh*t guys. Lyons just sent me these pictures and told me to look out the window.” We decide not to open the blinds, but people crowd around the phone to look. The visitor parking lot and the road in front of the school is filled with Police cars and trucks. The photo shows dozens of the black and white vehicles, and even more officers are walking around in bullet-proof vests and carrying large rifles.
The Dean’s Assistant, who had been whispering into a Walkie-Talkie, decides that it’s time we get a little informed, and she says that the school is going to be searched, room by room, for any weapons. Now, just a side note, WVHS is an enormous school. I’m talking over 4,000 students and probably hundreds of rooms.
But what is there that we can do? So we wait. Hours pass. A girl with a Blackberry finds a very vague article on MSN or NBC about a “weapon crisis” at Waubonsie. I get a call from Roxstar, who has late arrival and thus never entered the school, telling me that apparently some students were taken into custody by the police, but that is all they know.
A photo sent around the room reveals a truck belonging to a Forensics Investigation Unit parked outside the front door.
We continue to wait. One girl has to go to the bathroom. The DA calls in and asks if its allowed, but gets a negative response. We’ve been sitting for nearly two hours. Students from other rooms start texting us saying that they hear cops going around the school. Then, with no warning, we hear an eruption of barking coming from just about 20 feet away. We are in the room located closest to the front door, and it would seem that a unit with Search Dogs just entered the building.
The girl still has to pee. It’s been nearly three and a half hours, and she can’t hold it any longer. We find a garbage can and decide that we don’t have any other option. Luckily, she can tie the trash bag shut so we don’t have to endure the smell for the rest of our seclusion.
Boredom sets in. We are all still worried of course, but what can we do? A few of us begin to play Questions to pass the time when, without warning, the door busts open and the room is filled with a blinding light.
Four uniformed men step in, one with a Sheriff’s badge on his shoulder. They are orderly and professional. They tell us all to line up and one by one they pat us down entirely, even the girls. Additionally, they go through everyone’s bags and coats. I notice that the sheriff spends about two or three times as long patting down the four black students who were thrown into our room then the rest of us.
They offer little information and leave shortly after entering.
Woppa-woppa-woppa-woppa. A helicopter. We can’t go to open the windows, but it appears to be circling the school.
Students begin to get hungry. A few more need to go to the bathroom, but none are willing to use the garbage can again. (Honestly, I can’t imagine how much courage that must have taken.) We get texts from other students, all giving the same story: Cops enter, search, and leave. Apparently there were other accounts of students being apprehended in the halls quite noisily.
I am still amazed by how quickly information is passed these days. Students from other schools are trying to get hold of their friends in my classroom, saying that the crisis at Waubonsie was reported and people are worried. One student gets a text from her friends in college three hours away. And yet another, amazingly, is texted by his cousins from Texas who read it on NBC News. The ease at which we can communicate is unbelievable—but I’m glad. We need to communicate: even if the information is wrong we need something to keep us going—it’s all we have.
We’ve been sitting for over five hours when, completely by surprise, the loudspeaker sounds again. Marchiando. She tells us that the Lockdown is over, but to stay in our rooms until further notice. We open the blinds, and are amazed by what we see:
Thirty-Two police cars.
Uniformed officers have seemingly infested the area in front of our school. I’ve never seen that many cops in my life. Some are leading enormous German Sheppards on leashes, and others are just milling about. But before long we see them driving away—it appears the crisis really is over, whatever it was.
Marchiano again. I never thought I’d look forward to hearing her voice. She starts by thanking us for our cooperation, and she states that we should all be greatly thankful for the aid of the police force. She promises us that we are all safe, and then, thankfully (I swear there would have been an uprising if we had been kept in the dark), she told us of the situation. There had been a bomb threat yesterday, and this morning a student reported a scene he witnessed in a bathroom. Two students and what appeared to be a black pistol, exchanging the firearm from one bag to another.
We were later told that the incident was immediately reported, and while the only real evidence was the student’s story, police swarmed the building. Multiple students were found with “weapons” (I was not told if they were guns or knives or what, but considering the gang violence we have in the shadier parts of Aurora I assumed that guns would be discovered) and they were taken into custody. But to be honest I doubt they were tied to the original incident or the bomb threat—it was most likely sheer coincidence. Similarly, countless students were found with Marijuana and other drugs, but they were not taken into custody because the police were interested only on the task at hand. They got off lucky.
So what about the one that had been discovered by the student in the bathroom? The boy with the gun was reported as a Black student wearing a red hoody (thus, the cop’s actions with the black students in our room), and the item was found. What was it?
An air pistol.