be grateful for boring / shaking from a lock down / Thanksgiving 2015

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for boring.
~ Katherine Bacher

Dear Precious Readers,

Some of you are parents/guardians to children. I am not a parent, nor a guardian to a child. However as of last week, I’m gainfully employed at a school. I’m not a teacher, but I am part of staff that interacts with students frequently throughout the day. Being a staff member, I’m now a part of a team whose responsibility is empowered to protect each person on campus daily. We’ll call this location “Work Base.”

They may have been short weeks, but they were more eventful than most staff members who have been there over 10 years have experienced in their entire careers.

Last week was a 4-day week due to several power outages as a result of major rain and wind storms in the Washington State area. This week was short due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Week 1

Mid-week, Washington State underwent a rain and wind storm so severe, some areas were reporting 119 MPH winds.

I’ll give you a moment to absorb that statement.

We’re not talking just some heavy rain and minor flooding. A girl friend of mine, we’ll call her *Adora, just bought a house with her guy a few months ago. A day after the storms finally cleared, it now featured a 3-foot lake in her basement.

Many areas were without power for several days, some for a full week. This included inability to use landlines, water, etc. If you’re a long time reader of this blog, you’ll know that I have a slightly higher than average level of paranoia, leading me to be a mild Prepper. Believe me, if I had just bought a home like Adora, I’d begin filling every nook and cranny with years’ worth of emergency supplies. I may even create an emergency bunker under my home, financials permitting. With a home, I’d grow from “mild” Prepper to Extreme Prepper.

Yes, I’m that paranoid over emergency planning. I have been First Aid/CPR certified since I was 15 years old (many, many, many years ago), and have worked hard to keep myself ready for any type of emergency without actually being a trained medical or tactical provider.

Work Base was closed for one day. The next day was up and running, although the power did go off temporarily for 10 minutes. Friday, there was a planned evacuation drill. It was then I realized my Staff Emergency Binder was out of date. After the drill was over, I turned in my binder for updating and was assured I’d have it returned on Monday.

The week finished out normally, all was well.

Week 1 concluded.

Week 2

This week was an interesting one. Scheduled for full days Monday and Tuesday, with today being an early release day for the students. In a matter of a few days, students would be released to their homes to celebrate one of Americas finest (and most notorious) holidays of gathering for food witnessing fall. (Or, as Week 1 indicated: FULL WINTER.)

Fresh Monday morning, I went about my business. Life as a newbie employee tends to be riddled with system access issues, phone setup, computer adjustments, meeting your co-workers, learning which coworkers to avoid, menial task-work since you have no understanding of policy and procedure of your position, and training. Lots, and lots of training.

In between trainings, I was handling a quiet task when a signal came over the PA system. The worst possible moment anyone could imagine came through loud and clear.

“May I have your attention please.
Teachers and Staff:
We are in full lock down.
This is not a drill.
We are in full lock down.
This is not a drill.
Please lock and secure all doors, cover windows…”

People flew out of their seats and offices as we instantly began emergency procedures. Blinds were shut. Lights were extinguished. Doors were secured. Any exposure for visibility from our area was covered with black paper and taped tight.

My coworkers and I moved those in our area to secure locations. Not a single word was spoken. The oddest part? The silence. The silence of the common areas. No students talking, no cell phones chiming, no sounds of a backpack shuffling as someone walks by, no sounds of people moving around coming through the ceiling from the floor above our heads, no sounds of movement outside.

We were silent.
The hallway and rooms were silent.
Our world was silent.

The following cycled over and over in my mind:

  • Be silent. Stay calm. Stay alert. Be ready to evacuate.
  • Protect the children.
  • Running through my mental checklist of First Aid/CPR and school policies of handling injuries during an emergency situation.
  • This is actually happening! Dammit! Of all days to not have my emergency binder! [Insert string of expletives of your choice here.]
  • I need to call Pilot when it’s safe.
  • Oh, God! Oh, God! I have to think about “When it’s safe!” When is that going to be?! Please don’t let this be the way I go! Please don’t let this be the way any of us go!
  • Tamping down the panic. Be silent. Stay calm. Stay alert. Be ready to evacuate.
  • Praying for everyone involved.

 

My cycle of thought was forced to continue in this manner for nearly four hours.

Again, I’ll give you a moment to absorb that statement.

Throughout that time, we heard heavy boot falls throughout the halls as police, K9 bomb sniffing dogs, and other task force swept the campus for further unusual activity and further potential dangers. Several times throughout this nearly four-hour period, police would check the doors and shake them. The sharp, sudden attempts easily took 10 years off of the lives of everyone in our space.

After what seemed like an eternity, the lock down was lifted and we resumed our “normal” schedule. A full remainder of 45 minutes of the school day. All faculty, staff, and students were accounted for and safe, able to return home.

There have been an exponentially high increase in school shootings. Pilot stopped working at Marysville the year before the Marysville-Pilchuck shooting. He has experienced lock downs in his career as well.

How do I feel about the experience (and Pilot’s past experiences)?

I am thankful for every boring day that passes in my life. People don’t always understand why I don’t have more adventures, preferring to stay home and read/watch TV/write/play video games. I am grateful for the uneventful. I am grateful that no matter our emotional state, Pilot and I always tell each other that we love each other, even in the middle of fights. Even the big fights. We acknowledge that we love the other person, even though we’re upset with them in that moment. It’s days like Week 2: Monday, that I’m thankful Pilot and I remember we love each other even during anger.

Monday was the second scariest day of my life. My takeaway from the experience is as follows:

  • Acknowledge Love. It’s OK to go to bed angry. Pilot and I do this all of the time. Sometimes a good night’s sleep and a clear head in the morning are easier to utilize and quickly resolve an issue. I say: Never go to bed without internally and verbally acknowledging to that person that you love them. Every day.
  • Be realistic. Know what your skills and limitations are. Your life, or someone else’s may depend your ability to be truthful about yourself.
  • Trust your team. If you can’t trust your team, you need a new team. I am fortunate to have a highly skilled, compassionate and reliable team, both at Home Base and Work Base. If you don’t feel this way, you need to reevaluate your teams.
  • There is no finish line for Preparation. A good plan for as many types of emergency situations that you can think of, including 2 additional back up plans, is key during an emergency. Also, think about your steps and movements post-emergency. Think about what type of long-term physical, environmental, and mental care you might need, and be ready to take those steps after the emergency is over. You can never prepare enough.
  • Be flexible. Be prepared to throw away your plan. You need to be able to adapt. Preparedness is about being ready in any situation, including coming up with a new plan. Emergencies don’t always follow A + B = C. Emergencies do what they like. You need to be able to have the right set of tools and skill sets in case the emergency doesn’t “fall within your plan.”
  • Everybody love everybody. The more we care for our fellow man, the better our world can be. I try to live by these rules (besides God’s law): Do something today your future self will thank you for, and do your best to leave your world better than you found it. This includes people, not just places.

In short? This Thanksgiving:

I am grateful for boring days.
Be grateful for the boring days.

Peace and love to you all.

 

*Name has been changed for privacy.

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