It’s 11am on a Wednesday. I’m sitting at home writing at the computer, when I hear something. I pause to actively listen. It’s music, floating in on the breeze through the door. I recognise the song. It’s an old classic, The Lion Sleeps Tonight. But today it unnerves me, making my fingers tingle. We live close to the primary school where my children go. I know this song is played when my children’s school goes into lockdown.
I first heard about these lockdown drills when my kids started school. When I was at school, there was the fire drill. An alarm sounded and everybody was meant to leave their classrooms in an orderly manner and congregate on the oval. Kids these days still do these fire drills. But now they also practice hiding under desks and staying silent.
I get up and hurry out onto our patio, listening. The music sounds disconnected and out of place. A song I always sang along with now makes the hair on the back of my neck prickle.
I know what my kids are doing right now. They are hiding under their desks, locked into their classrooms by their teachers. Little kids crouched under tables, trying not to giggle with their friends because they hopefully have little idea why they are doing this, what possible scenario could necessitate these actions. They’re not old enough to remember Sandy Hook and Columbine. But I am.
All I can think about is that tiniest chance that this is not a drill. I consider texting a friend who works at the school, but that would be overreacting. Surely it is a drill. Surely the type of incident where kids cower in their classrooms won’t happen at my children’s ordinary suburban school. Surely. After all, we live in Australia not America.
But I’m a police officer. I know from experience that the unlikely, the unforeseeable, the unimaginable – that these things do happen. Violence and tragedy can strike any where, any time, and even sometimes on a quiet Wednesday morning in the suburbs.
Surely if something was really happening, I would hear that over the eerie music. Shouting, sirens, gunshots. Anything. And then what would I do? I would rush to the school. Would it be faster to drive to the school or run? Jump off the patio, across the vacant lot, over the creek, through the carpark. Shoes or no shoes? I think I’d just take off.
Part of me is outraged that such a thing as a lockdown drill even exists. What sort of society do we live in where we have to teach children as young as four to hide and be silent to keep them safe at school? At school, for god’s sake, where they are meant to learn and play. But it’s a possibility, (a remote one but nevertheless) that this sort of drill may protect them from harm one day.