The Eleventh Hour. A phrase that dates back to Bible times and is still in use today. Essentially it means “at the last possible moment”. With the advent of online school options, the 11th hour takes on more meaning as assignments are often due at midnight. But today, the Eleventh Hour takes on new meaning for me, and it has nothing to do with the Master’s class homework that I have due tomorrow at midnight. Rather it has everything to do with my personal life.
You see, yesterday, the small school where I teach found a message on the bathroom wall and suddenly, things changed. My superintendent popped into my room (a rare, but usually jovial event when he does) and said that we had to evacuate immediately to an off-site secure location. We needed to get our emergency bag, to collect student cell phones, and to get out as quickly & quietly as possible. We had no clue what was happening. We just went. As the time started dragging on and local authorities and EMS support arrived, it quickly became obvious to the adults that this wasn’t just a drill. The next almost 3 hours were spent trying to keep the 4th-12th graders under our charge safe, calm, and relatively quiet. Siblings wanted to know their older/younger siblings were safe. Panic attacks by students came. We realized how unprepared we really were for this. And we (the staff) all started to wonder if this was OUR eleventh hour. One staff member mentioned the sappy texts her husband and she had sent to each other this morning and wondered if that could have been her last text to him. Yet through it all, we kept strong. We comforted students while not showing any of our fears. We were present. We did what we needed to do. We played what must possibly be considered the largest and longest game of “Simon Says” ever played in the history of the game “Simon Says”.
Finally the all-clear call came. We were allowed to go back. Having police presence every block was both comforting and a bit freaky all at the same time. I kept my eyes peeled every step of the way home, ready to literally throw myself in front of my students if needed. Once back at school, we were all searched. Walking through the hallway with my students, seeing every locker open, every door closed with a piece of blue tape over it to show that it had been secured, well, the reality of what could have been my 11th hour started to hit. And then to see the blue tape on MY classroom door. Whew. Rein it in, breathe, pretend like I’m strong as the students need me to be strong, stable, and present.
That afternoon, I left to go get my kids from their school in the next town (we all had counseling appointments–kind of ironic). Almost every student required a hug before I was allowed to leave my room. And then, I cried. Almost the entire trip. Because I finally could. I could finally release the myriad of emotions that consumed me. I didn’t have to be strong anymore. It was my personal Eleventh Hour. And I thought of what would have happened to my own 5 kids (3 of whom are still at home) if I had died today. If the threat had actually been carried through. Talk about sobering. It made me think of my personal relationships. Who was important to me? Why were they important to me? And most importantly, what was I going to do about that?
And still, even now, I keep repeating to myself my new favorite word: Safe. I’m safe. The kids are safe. My school is safe. My family is safe. Safe. We’re safe.
Is there aftermath? Oh yes.
But I’m safe.
And from my fragile Violet Vantage Point, that’s all that matters.