Opinion: Rehearsing for death


By Launa Hall, Washington Post

“Remember that activity when we all get in the closet and pretend we’re not even there, so our principal can’t find us?” I choose my words carefully as I prep my pre-kindergarten students for the lockdown drill scheduled for that afternoon. These drills have become routine at Arlington elementary schools, and at schools across the country. After the latest school shooting, on Oct. 24 in Washington state, schools will no doubt be running through drills yet again. What can we do about all these shootings?, teachers ask each other. Lock the doors, we’re told, and assume the worst is coming.

When you’re guiding 4- and 5-year-olds through a drill, your choice of words can mean everything. “Activity,” not “game,” because we laugh during games, and I can’t risk introducing laughter. I don’t say “police,” because some little kids find police officers scary, and I can’t risk introducing tears. Instead, even though our principal isn’t there this day, I want them to picture his kind but purposeful face when they hear the police officers and administrators hustling down the hallway, testing the doorknob of each room. I don’t say “quiet,” because I can’t risk them shushing one another while they are crammed together, practically sitting in each other’s laps. And because it’s not quiet that’s required for this drill, but rather complete silence. As silent as children who aren’t there at all.

After lunch we hear a fiddling with the loudspeaker. Our well-meaning assistant principal is nearing retirement, and certain technologies, such as the many buttons on the intercom, are a strain on her. There is a low mumbling, which may be coaching from the office staff. More fumbling — perhaps a drop. Then, flustered, at last, the assistant principal says, “Lockdown, everyone, thank you.”

My eyes meet my assistant’s over the heads of our students. Usually, we get the announcement: “We are in a lockdown. This is a drill.” The assistant principal didn’t say the word “drill.” But of course it has to be. We were told about it in an all-staff e-mail hours ago. This is totally routine, I tell myself. I’m annoyed that I took even a split second to consider an alternative.

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Comments (28)
  1. legal beagle says - Posted: November 9, 2014

    I rehearse for death every time a go for a drive. 32,000 death victims and millions of injures every year. I certainly plan for death when I take an airliner. Every time I eat I think is this the time
    I get fatal food poisoning. I stopped going to Mexico with all their decapitations and disappearances.
    Today I will stay in my armor plated bed and hope to survive for another day.
    Did I forget to mention no more swimming in Lake Tahoe, not with all the drowning deaths.
    And Ebola is going to wipe out the human race.

  2. Atomic says - Posted: November 9, 2014

    Hey legal, you are pathetic.

    Kate, please remove that posting as it is so willfully ignorant and outrageous that it boggles the mind.

    Equating school shootings with Ebola or food poisoning………you are a worthless piece of twisted garbage.

    Lets have an active shooter drill over at legal beagles’ house. That should sensitize him to the insanity that our kids have to go through.

  3. Dogula says - Posted: November 9, 2014

    I’m with Beagle. The media and our noble leaders want us to remain terrified of everything so that we will continue to look to them for our safety. Frightened people are compliant.
    It’s a scary world. Evil exists. None of us gets out of here alive.

  4. legal beagle says - Posted: November 9, 2014

    Dear Atomic,

    Please argue against the points I make not against your neurotic inner feelings.
    I was pointing out there are risks everywhere you turn.
    Of course any death diminishes all of us, but all things must be in perspective. An idea and thought you are incapable of understanding.
    And please try to remember the “Bill of Rights” when frothing at the mouth.

  5. Atomic says - Posted: November 9, 2014


    None of you have children in school, that much is clear. As a result, you are not qualified to comment as you are, once again, speaking out of turn.

    This is not about media hype, not about the Bill of Rights and all your blah blah blah. This is about Lock Downs at our public schools. Did you read the article? We live in a country that is now OK with terrorizing our school kids so kooks like you can lean back and feel like your right to assault weapons and huge ammo clips are preserved. Whacked. This country has lost it’s way. The second amendement was never about this. The founding fathers would be embarrassed that it has come to this.

    No other civilized country tolerates this gun nonsense. Australia has one mass shooting a dozen years ago and legislates common sense controls. Guess how many they have had since. ZERO. None. Americans need to wake up and look around the world sometimes. There are, occasionally, better ways of doing things.

  6. Biggerpicture says - Posted: November 9, 2014

    From one side of their mouth gun worshipers are telling us we are overreacting to our children being slaughtered, then from the side of their mouth they preach a fear based agenda telling us we are in immediate danger if we don’t arm ourselves.

  7. Dogula says - Posted: November 9, 2014

    Bigs, sometimes I wonder how your mind works. How you get from us disagreeing with the suitability of ‘active shooter drills’ in schools, to thinking we are okay with children being slaughtered is beyond me.
    Hysterical exaggeration is uncalled for.
    I would never suggest that anyone who doesn’t want to carry arms should do so. That’s a recipe for disaster. But I sure wouldn’t count on anybody else protecting me in an emergency.
    When seconds matter, the police are minutes away.

  8. Hmmm... says - Posted: November 9, 2014

    typical NRA fear/desensitization tactic. comparing gun deaths and automobile deaths is ridiculous. it is the kind of crazy (il)logic that obfuscates, rather than clarifies, issues. kinda like religio/political fundamentalists preaching love and freedom but advocating hatred and intolerance. It dazzles the shallow slow thinkers among us with steely rhetoric while keeping people locked in their fear based reactive emotions.

  9. Kevin Murphy says - Posted: November 9, 2014

    Delusional sociopaths can’t understand how normal human beings think. That’s no big surprise.

  10. Kevin Murphy says - Posted: November 9, 2014

    Dogula, at least you don’t deny your mindset, I respect you for that.

  11. cosa pescado says - Posted: November 9, 2014

    ‘Bigs, sometimes I wonder how your mind works.’
    Perfect example here:

    ‘to thinking we are okay with children being slaughtered is beyond me’
    Is that a proper paraphrasing of:
    ” gun worshipers are telling us we are overreacting to our children being slaughtered,”

  12. Naqoyqatsi says - Posted: November 9, 2014

    It is NOT hysterical exaggeration from Biggerpicture. Time and time again the weapons manufacturers have directed the NRA to pressure the Republican/Libertarian parties to say just that…and to wrap it in the flag and couch it in shiny terms like ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’ and to ramp up people’s fears(see ‘legal beagle’s’ weakass ramblings above). If you aren’t willing to acknowledge that, and accept the need to limit public access to automatic weapons and extended clips, then you ARE in essence saying that you are willing to tolerate the fact that children have been and will continue to be SLAUGHTERED EN MASSE, and that people, (even psychos) have the right to have access to the weapons that enable them to do so… and that our entire society should be okay with it too. There’s no logical way to argue such a position, and no moral imperative that can justify such crazy-making thought. Tell us Dogula, did you feel filled with the Holy Presence of Christ at church today?

  13. legal beagle says - Posted: November 10, 2014

    If you hysterics don’t like the “Bill of Rights” do something to change it. Atomic do you have a problem with the First Amendment to the Constitution?
    Is free speech only for your kind?
    Too bad the good guys now run Congress or will in two months. Enjoy the next two years.

  14. Naqoyqatsi says - Posted: November 10, 2014

    Tell us, will the ‘good guys’ wear white hats?

  15. John S says - Posted: November 10, 2014

    While I think there is a lot of irrational fear these days please remember that when some of you were you were younger we had “Duck and Cover” and earthquake drills.

  16. Kevin Murphy says - Posted: November 10, 2014

    Gee John S, because previous generations were traumatized by fear-mongering neocons we should accept and condone more of this abuse? How conservative of you to say so.

  17. Dogula says - Posted: November 10, 2014

    LOL! Duck and cover drills for nuclear attacks were pretty damned silly too.

  18. reloman says - Posted: November 10, 2014

    we really have to ask why these shootings occure? is it posibly a mental health issue? or completely a gun control issue? or a media giving a mentally unstable person immortality? I am wondering if maybe we should have a complete lockdown on the media as far as the name of the shooter and his family, As far as the media is concerned the killer never existed. I know some will yell freedom of the press, but if it will stop one massacure would it not be worth it. not a big deal to forget another bill of rights if it for the greater good.

  19. John S says - Posted: November 10, 2014

    Kevin Murphy — I think you missed the part of my statement where I mention “irrational fear”

  20. Biggerpicture says - Posted: November 10, 2014

    Reloman, are you actually advocating that gagging the press as opposed to dealing with this issue from a law based standpoint could be a better solution? And to those that argue that “criminals” don’t pay attention to laws therefore gun laws are a waste of time, why not argue that ALL laws are a waste of time and therefore should be abolished?

  21. Reloman says - Posted: November 10, 2014

    What I am saying is the guns are not the only problem, mental health as well as the medias obsession with the biggest headlines to make more money. There is no reason to print the names of these people except for morbid curiosity. Let their name die with them. Then maybe others wont copy them knowing that their name wont go on in infamy. I am sure you cant name one good reason for printing their name, put them down as a john doe.

  22. Biggerpicture says - Posted: November 10, 2014

    Reloman, what about those shooters that don’t die and are apprehended and prosecuted? Should we also have all info involved in that situation censored? You do realize you’re advocating government censorship of the media right?

  23. reloman says - Posted: November 10, 2014

    yes i am, unless you are advocating giving these guys an outlet to make them famous. dont let their names out. there is no reason for it, report everything but their names. The government censorship happens every single day.

  24. Biggerpicture says - Posted: November 10, 2014

    So you see giving up some of your freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and the Constitution to curb the press from hyping mass murder in the hopes that in doing so will curb mass murders. BUT you would find mandatory gun purchase background checks totally out of the question. Something that wouldn’t impinge on any of your rights.

    Huh. Well, I guess that’s ONE way to see this issue. Just not the way I, and most Americans see it.

  25. reloman says - Posted: November 10, 2014

    never said i am against mandatory mental health, safety classes, locked gun cases laws to keep out of the the young as well as people who dont have permission from the owner and background checks, where in the world did you get that? Interesting that you project your prejudice aganist all people who are a little conservative to be rabid teapartiers(whos legs have just been cut from under them will be listened to not at all).
    BTW if you think a majority of Americans think exactly like yourself that would mean that they would be able to do away with guns completely(assuming that is how you feel about guns) I do not believe that your statement is not even close to the way most americans feel. Most americans rarely take a firm stance on any thing.

  26. Biggerpicture says - Posted: November 10, 2014

    Huh. I made an argument based on generalization.

    And I was wrong.

    Reloman, I apologize.

  27. reloman says - Posted: November 11, 2014

    Bigger you are a bigger person than most on this board, my respect for you has gone up. Thanks for the apology

  28. legal beagle says - Posted: November 12, 2014

    One more important thing. If the title of the article had been accurate I don’t think there would have been near the uproar.
    The correct title should have been: “REHEARSING FOR