Survival can take many forms depending on the threat.
Survival can take many forms depending on the threat. In 2001, we sat in horror watching the television in our classrooms as planes flew into the Word Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. A little over a year later in 2002, the DC Sniper was out terrorizing our neighborhood—killing seventeen innocent people. We were in the middle of taking our senior panoramic picture in the gymnasium and the teachers said there was a ‘code blue’ and that we had to remain there for a while. None of us remembered what that meant—I could only assume it was a weather emergency. Then we were all moved to the cafeteria, we knew something was really wrong. The teachers closed the blinds to cover the windows. We were finally told that there was a shooter on the loose.
We learned later that a “code blue” threat signifies that there is an emergency or serious crisis near the school and students and staff are to remain in locked classrooms away from any doors or windows, and they should stay in this manner until instructed that the school is safe. After a while, we were released early from school for the day.
We didn’t have smartphones yet, so we got our news through print and television media. When I got home from school I watched as they reported that an innocent young woman was shot and killed less than three miles from our school and my home. At a shopping center that I frequented. If another victim was killed during the day, we found out when we got home from school.
For twenty-three days, we had to try to survive. It felt like an eternity. Watching our backs at gas stations. Staying inside our homes. Forced to go to school and learn physiology and calculus while there was an on-going domestic terror threat happening outside. Pay attention over here, kids. Not on the looming threat outside.
Every day, I pulled my car into the student parking lot, and would pass police officers with automatic rifles and full tactical gear standing on the edge of our school entrance. It was meant to make us feel safe, but I just felt more terrified of the seriousness of the situation. Our high school was positioned in the middle of a corn field. Not ideal when you have a serial killer sniper on the loose. We were told to walk into school in a zig zag pattern to protect ourselves. It felt like fighting a rapid dog with cooked spaghetti.
We are a nation of terror upon terror. My grandparents watched as their school friends and loved ones were sent to war. My parents as kids were taught to hide under their desks in case of a bomb threat. We were taught to turn the lights and lock the door in case of a school shooter. The generation now, taught to buy bulletproof backpacks and rubber door stoppers. I used to think these shocks were acute, but now I’m not so sure. They have adopted a persistent and chronic nature. We are told to move on from trauma. There is counseling, if you need it. But then the next trauma hits like a freight train. Maslow's hierarchy of needs includes safety as a basic requirement to be able to achieve ones full potential. Think about that.
What basic need is being unmet in your life that is preventing you from reaching your full potential?
©Kristin Tilley, February 2021