This is Not a Drill

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Three teachers died in the Parkland massacre because when a shooter enters a school, the first line of defense, the people we ask to sacrifice themselves if necessary to protect our children, are teachers. Julie Z. Lee has this Perspective.

Today I asked my son about the lockdown drill scheduled at his school. I had seen it in the newsletter, and my heart was heavy that my children must prepare for what is beginning to feel inevitable.

My son said it’s nothing new. They’ve had them before. I was surprised — was it routine? Of course, it was.

First, he said, an alarm goes off, and a voice on the loudspeaker announces the drill. Everyone gathers in a corner, while his teacher locks both classroom doors and closes the curtains.

“Then,” he said, “Mr. K. stands in front of us until it’s over.”


I picture this. My son’s sixth-grade room, a friendly space with colorful walls and wide windows. Windows that now feel like a threat.

I picture Mr. Kakazu, known as Mr. K. Mr. K., who is adored by everyone. Who holds rap battles to teach history. Who loves puns and poetry. Who has a wife and two kids, one who is also at the school. It is Mr. K. who will shield our children from whatever comes through that door.

I picture him standing there, hushing the giggling children, who don’t quite understand what this all means.

What is he thinking about? The next math test, recess duty, a parent-teacher conference? Or does he stand there, imagining what he would do if this were not a drill? If instead of giggles, he was listening to muffled sobs against the ricochet of bullets. Is he questioning how a few desks against a door will ever be enough? Is he baffled at how his love of teaching has landed him in a place where he’s having to protect his students from a gunman?

I picture him. He is thinking of his daughter down the hall.

He is wondering when this will all be over.

With a Perspective, I’m Julie Z. Lee.

Julie Z. Lee works for a non-profit that builds churches, schools, and water wells around the world. She lives in the Napa Valley.