The phone rings. It is my daughter Amy calling from New Hampshire. "Mom?" Her voice is strangled. I brace myself but nothing has prepared me for what follows. "Stephie's school is under lock down. There's a gunman in the school. Steph called me on her phone ". Amy is on the verge of crying now. My heart beats so hard I have to sit down. Just last night she sent me Steph's senior picture. Shiny-eyed Stephie, eighteen years old, a high school senior poised on the edge of her adult life. Amy continues, "I could hear the teacher yelling, 'Be quiet. Listen to me. Stay down! Stay down!'" Old newsreels flash through my mind which rejects them immediately.
Central High is a big school, 4000 or so students in a vast group of older buildings. Twice last year the school was locked down with students inside. Once because a wife beater who had just killed a policeman was suspected of hiding there, and a second time when a student brought a weapon into the school. Now, I want to know where my granddaughter is in relation to the gunman, but there is no way of finding out. Amy herself lives close by but she is miles away at work and the whole high school neighborhood is cordoned off. She worries about the safety of 15 year-old Josh alone at home, not feeling well.
Failing to rob a restaurant across the street, three men are cornered by the police. One is arrested, another shoots himself, and the third one runs across the street into the high school. My mind weighs the information. Is he more dangerous than a desperate alienated teenager? Less? Will he surrender or take as many people as he can with him? I launch into a string of reassurances that I try to believe, "She'll be OK. She'll do as she is told . . ." Amy interrupts, "Steph is calling!" I sit on the edge of the bed. I have been there before, these terrible moments when you are alone, fearing the worst and can do nothing, nothing at all. Soon, Amy calls back: Stephie's class is out of harm's way. Eventually, all the kids are removed safely. It'll play itself out between the police and the gunman now.
Fear ebbs away and in its place rises a great rage against that bastard who terrified us, against the NRA and its specious arguments. Obama is in New Hampshire today campaigning away. Neither he nor McCain has touched on the issue of gun control. What if it were their daughter or granddaughter in that school? Stephie and her classmates are safe this time. What about next time?