I was picking up my daughter from her elementary school on a day like any other. We decided, as we often do, to hang out there instead of going straight home so she and her younger sister could play on the playground with some of their friends.
About 15 minutes into it there was an announcement over the PA that none of the adults heard quite clearly enough to make out, but it sounded urgent. A parent poked around the corner, “Hey, I think we’re supposed to go inside.” This wasn’t enough to get anyone moving, but then a police officer arrived with a clear sense of urgency.
“Everybody inside the school, NOW!”
He didn’t explain what was happening other than there was “a dangerous situation nearby that may be heading in our direction.” We held open a side entrance and hustled everyone in while doing our best to make sure everyone who was on the playground was accounted for. The cop yelled at a guy who was taking his sweet time moseying in.
The degree to which the officer was taking the situation seriously was very apparent. Serious and urgent. He needed to witness — in his periphery, because he was scanning the parking lot and general area hard — everyone going inside and locking the door before he was willing to take off and search the perimeter, and he had precisely zero interest in wasting time.
I had assigned my girls to stay with a friend and her mom as they went to the library where they were locking everyone down. When the outdoors crew was all inside I caught up.
We shuffled my girls, some other kids, and some of their parents into a little office inside of the library. It has only one door, which can be locked on the inside, and no windows other than a small one in the door. They hung out in there with the lights out.
At this point I had already lamented, like a hundred times over, the fact that my carry gun was in the center console of my car. Can’t carry it on school grounds, you see. Higher education institutions in Texas, yes. Other schools or educational institutions, no.
So I took stock of my surroundings. Great. The large library has four different entrances from the hallways. Each on a different wall. It’s in the center of the school, with hallway wrapping around all of it. Great.
Each set of double doors has two windows. No blinds. Great. The doors do lock but not particularly seriously. Fort Knox it ain’t. It’ll have to do, of course, and we locked all of the doors.
My little Microtech UTX-70 is super cool and totally handy, but an offensive weapon it really isn’t. Not against someone who bursts through the door shooting.
And, at this time (we’re about two minutes into locking the library down), I had been quietly informed by a teacher with a face more scared than I’ve seen perhaps ever that we were in there due to an MWAG 9-1-1 call. That is, a “man with a gun.”
Possibly just a man, but possibly some men or high school-age guys with rifles directly across the street from the school, and the SWAT team was arriving. A very good SWAT team, by the way. One that I’ve actually knocked a door down with. But none of this was of particular comfort as I found myself in a large library with about 60 people. Unarmed.
But I was not just unarmed, I was disarmed. Which had me really angry. Like, pissed off.
All these people, literally scared for their lives. Not just nervous or worried, mind you, but like completely, legitimately afraid they may die in gunfire while huddled together on the floor of a library with their children. Nobody had cover. Few had concealment.
With the exception of my girls and the folks with them in that little office, everyone else — about 50-or-so people, a little over half of them grade school children and the rest parents and teachers — was a sitting duck. They were on the floor, in the middle of the large room, in positions that would make it difficult to quickly get the F’ out of there. “Un-ass the AO,” if you will.
I had long-since selected one of the extremely solid, hardwood children’s stools as my primary weapon. I sat my bum down on it to the side of the only doors that offered a place to be hidden from view to anyone coming through them. Which were also the doors closest to the office in which my kids were. Which was good, because I believe it was my best tactical choice, but I don’t think I could have made that choice if it put me too far from my girls.
So I sat there, right hand gripped low around a leg of the stool. Ready. On the balls of my feet and ready to jump up and swing that f’er. Smiling at the few people who didn’t have a thousand-yard stare, trying to look entirely relaxed. The only person not sitting on the floor.
My plan was simple. Not that there were many options. That stool was my club. Disarm with it. Maybe cause some damage. Either keep going or ice pick a mother f****r in the base of the skull with my knife.
That is, if he/they came through my doors. If it was another door, plan B was dash out my door as fast as possible, circle around the hallway to their door, and get the jump on him from behind. That’s the best I had.
And at this point I loved my anger. I was so happy that I was so angry. Everything I had in me amplified by the image of my carry gun locked in the car was going to be focused through that stool and into whatever idiot threatened my girls, my neighbors, this school full of good people. Many of whom have become good friends to my wife, my kids, and me.
Speaking of which, while this is happening my wife was in the hospital. She had come down, suddenly, with a freak infection four or five days prior and was still stuck in the hospital on IV antibiotics and such. She had almost died that first evening while in the ER.
I chose not to tell her. No text and certainly no phone call as everyone was attempting to remain silent while on lockdown. Worrying over a situation entirely out of her control just didn’t seem like something she needed.
So I’m angry for that, too. We were supposed to be on our way to the hospital to see her. Robert had visited her earlier and read her some chapters from his first novel (which is really good, by the way). Oh, man, was he going to be pissed when I told him this story.
Finally, after about 45 minutes, we got word that the situation was under control. SWAT had taken suspects into custody without incident. I mean, other than the incident. I let go of my trusty stool, relieved, but not a whole lot less angry.
Turned out it was high school or middle school kids with airsoft guns. Thankfully they didn’t get shot. No real blame to go around other than some kids not thinking about how it looks to be playing with realistic airsoft guns around their house while the grade school across the street was letting out. Not long after an actual school shooting had been playing out in the news. Whoever called it in made the right choice. The SWAT team obviously exercised some discretion. It was taken seriously and everyone acted quickly.
I found some holes in the school’s lockdown process and choices. The principal was very receptive and we may work on hardening the place a little bit with things as simple as blinds for the windows, better locks or barricades, and different locations in which to lock people down.
Additionally, in Texas one can carry concealed on school property with written authorization from the school. Which can come from the principal or district. This is in the works. It isn’t safe to lock my gun in the car, as thefts happen. It isn’t safe to herd a bunch of people into the middle of a room, defenseless. I’d prefer not to experience that again. At least not the defenseless part.