Look forward. Altoona high security guards are on high alert. Security guards guard different entrances to ensure student safety. (Lillian Roberts )
Look forward. Altoona high security guards are on high alert. Security guards guard different entrances to ensure student safety.

Lillian Roberts

March 29 is the day  I would finally face the one thing most students fear most, a school shooting. 

I was lucky it was a hoax, not an active shooter. But just because it was a hoax doesn’t mean it wasn’t traumatizing. 

My day started average and about as normal as normal could be, until third period, when we were told to start a lockdown. Of course, the school does drills, and I thought it was a drill at first. Until I saw the police officers running into the school. Then the nerves really set in. 

Mr. Neely came across the loudspeaker informing us it wasn’t a drill. Granted, the room I was in still had lights on and we students were still working on a paper we had been assigned that day. An officer then opened the door and told my teacher to lock the door. I don’t think any of us, including my teacher, expected that door to open and see a fully suited man in all black gear and a rather large gun and tell us to lock the door. 

My teacher then locked the door, and we all returned to normal except my nerves were through the roof. It was hard to not show signs of nerves, as everything seemed so surreal and not like this was real life, rather an extremely bad dream. 

Not too long after, Neely came across the speaker again and said to have lights off and be in a corner. 

I was sitting at my seat with the lights on. This was when reality truly set in that we were in danger. (Luckily we were not)

My teacher then followed what Neely said, and we hid. Confusion crossed all of us in that very room, along with everyone in the whole school. I started to text my parents and explain what was happening. My mom ran through the whole instructions of playing  dead, running, booking it even, self defense and keeping myself aware with all of my senses. 

The room I was in was bad. Windows on three of the walls and only one clear wall. Granted, it was no B130, but it was still pretty bad. I made sure to shove myself furthest into the corner. I was not planning on risking it at all. 

When in such extreme situations, filled to the brim with fear and tension, humans are bound to crack even a little bit under stress and make natural mistakes. But, my class was kind of weird, to put it with lack of better wording. Nerves make us do some weird stuff right, but the kids in my class were talking in a normal voice and even laughing. Personally, I wouldn’t have done it but each all to their own right? 

But, if anything it freaked me out even more, and I was not about to let some kids and their giggles ruin my hiding and put me at risk. Luckily for me, that anger replaced my fear, and my brain was no longer clouded with fear filled thoughts but rather rational thoughts. So, while those kids were annoying to me then, I thank them now because I wouldn’t have snapped out of my fear clouded thought process. 

But that’s just the rundown of the basics of how my experience was. 

What about now? Now that everything’s calmed down and very little, if at all, ever talks about March 29 anymore. What about the aftermath?

Sure, administration and the police department worked wonders and made sure to support everyone and to make sure we were okay, but what about months after?

Now, I hate going in the halls alone without having my stuff with me. Every time I’m going somewhere I make sure to take someone with me or move quickly, maybe a little too quickly. 

Every time I hear the ringing of our loudspeaker come across, a flash of fear crosses my mind, and I imagine that something like that is going to happen again. I’ve discussed it with my friends as well, most agreeing that they imagine the same. 

While I’ve tried to forget and push it out of my thought process, I can’t help but have that thought cross my mind every time. I hate it with every bone in my body. My brain acts like we aren’t a super safe school already, and the end of the school year probably being one of the safest times, as no one ever brings anything, not even a bookbag. 

I try to keep it positive all the time and not let that ruin my days, and it has yet to; but that experience as a whole, for everyone, was so bad. I don’t know a single person who has thought otherwise from me. 

Overall, that day still haunts me, for lack of not being dramatic. It’s not been the worst day of my life, but it sure was the most impressionable and memorable, not for good reasons. 

I wish we didn’t have to live in such a cruel world with awful-minded people, but that’s our sad reality. I hate it with my soul and wish those people could all just change for the better, and not make young adults fear for their lives in a place they should feel beyond safe, but I don’t think those horrendous things are ready for that discussion. 

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It was third period on March 29 when I felt my world turned upside down. I was sitting in the back of the Newsroom (B130) when I saw police forces rush through the main entrance of the building and into the bathrooms. 

Newspaper and yearbook adviser Wanda Vanish screamed at the class to get to the front of the room. A change occurred in the room at that moment. We went from innocent children to terrified young adults. 

For over an hour, we sat at the front of the room, texting loved ones and finding things to throw just in case someone tried to break in. The only sound that could be heard was heavy breathing and forced laughter. 

About 45 minutes in, I began to hear of social media reports it was a hoax. Stuck between anger and hope, I began to try and find out more. Twenty minutes later the lockdown was lifted. 

It wasn’t until the lockdown was lifted that I realized the gravity of the situation I had just been in. When it did, it hit me like a ton of bricks. 

So far, I’ve treated what happened that day with just giving the basics. I haven’t said what went through my mind or how I reacted. I guess I have feared reactions from others, but in the end, we shouldn’t judge others for experiences they have gone through. 

When we were told to get to the front of the room, I didn’t think. I ran towards it, but in the process I forgot my phone. I tried not to panic. After all, lockdowns happen all the time. This is nothing new. But, as time went on, I realized the truth. Borrowing someone’s phone, I texted my parents. 

Texting my parents, fearing I would never see them again was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had a choice to make at that moment. Remain calm when I text them or panic. In the end, I chose the calm route. 

I didn’t know how my parents would react, and I didn’t know what they would say or do. In the end, I didn’t know until the lockdown was over because the messages they sent back never came through. 

My parents were at the doors of the school the moment they could be. I had never seen my parents cry the way they did at that moment. I hope I never have to again.

I didn’t go to school the next day. I couldn’t face it. We drove past it at one point, and I had a breakdown. The effects of what happened hit me yet again. However, I couldn’t let it get the best off me. 

To this day, I still think about that day a lot. I still will struggle from time to time when I go into the newsroom. I still worry I will go to school one day and not come back. 

I couldn’t be more thankful for how the school district handled the situation. It isn’t their fault that I was as panicked as I was. 

I can’t imagine what families who have been through who have lost children to school shootings, but my heart goes out to each and every one who has lost someone in a school shooting. They are not a joke or something to feel nothing over. They are scary, nerve wracking and stressful.

I wish I could change the way this world works and I wish these things wouldn’t happen. Unfortunately, I can’t do it on my own. Until the world is willing to change and people are willing to make it better, nothing will change. But I’m not afraid to use my voice. I’ll use it and maybe, someday, people will join in. 



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