0809 Mary Jo Hazard headshot.jpg

Mary Jo Hazard

When I sat down with my coffee to read a recent issue of the Daily Breeze, a headline about Los Angeles Unified School District requiring mock lockdowns to ready for gun violence leaped out at me.

My vision blurred and a weight settled in on my heart. 

How has this happened in our country?

Haven’t we always sent our children to school thinking they were in a safe and secure environment? Unfortunately, that’s just not true. 

In the 1950s we had “air raid drills.” In 2019 we have “lockdown drills.”

According to the Daily Breeze, in 2018 there were 27 nationwide active shooter incidents. Based on these statistics, teachers and students need to be prepared, to have plans, to practice in case the unthinkable happens.

Back in the ‘50s when I was growing up in Stillwater, New York, I attended St. Paul’s, a small Catholic grammar school in Mechanicsville, a mill town on the Hudson River. We didn’t have active shooter drills, instead we had fire drills and “duck and cover.” 

Fire drills were pretty much run of the mill.

We’d get up from our desks, form a single file line, and follow our teacher down the halls and out the door. Every class had a specific spot in the yard to wait for the all clear signal. Then they would troop back to their room happy for the interruption to our daily schedule. 

The “duck and cover” drills were supposed to protect us if the Russians dropped a nuclear bomb in upstate New York.

Although this had never happened, Americans were fearful that it would, and the drills were supposed to give people a sense of security and control. 

When the siren sounded, the students dropped under their desks on their knees, put their faces on the floor and covered the back of their head and neck with their hands.

Everyone did as they were told even though my friend, Dolores, informed the teacher that her grandfather warned: "If the Russians drop a bomb, you won’t have time to bend over and kiss your fanny goodbye."

Dolores got in trouble for saying fanny and the rest of us spent our entire recess trying to figure out why anyone would ever do that. 

I don’t remember being scared during those drills, but I made sure I did exactly what I was told and I wished my seat wasn’t near the window. I was worried the windows would shatter and I’d get cut by flying glass.

Deep down though, I was afraid.

At night when I went to bed, I’d pray that if we did get bombed, my whole family, grandparents, parents, brother, sister and Peppy our cocker spaniel, would die at the same time. I went to confession a lot, too.

Flash forward to 2019 and the compulsory lockdown drills.

Thanks to the media, most children are aware of school shootings. School shootings are major news stories. They are on the television, the radio, and social media. Everyone, including children, is aware of them in a matter of minutes. 

It’s true that if there is an active shooter on a school campus, everyone should know how to respond quickly, safely and successfully, especially the children.

Innocence lost? Perhaps, but if young lives are saved, it’s time well spent.

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