I tiptoed into my boys’ bedrooms last night, cancelling each of their morning alarms.
The district hadn’t yet decided whether to cancel school or not, but we knew there was a crazed person at large in our community. She had come to Colorado from Florida, one of the long stream of people who make an odd pilgrimage here. She purchased a gun upon her arrival, and she had made “credible threats” stemming from her infatuation with the Columbine shooting that happened twenty years ago this week. We knew she was nearby, armed, hiding, and dangerous.
I turned off the boys’ alarms, and I put my hand on my son’s back. I do that most nights, just a breath of a prayer before I finish the day.
He rolled over to face me. “Mom? Is that you?”
“It’s me, buddy.”
“You touched me.”
“I did. I was just coming to tell you that you can sleep in tomorrow. No school.”
“Is it because of the Columbine lady?”
He knew just enough and all together too much.
“Man. She’s serious.”
“She seems to be.”
“Is everybody staying home? Or just us?’
“The district is deciding if they will close, but we have made our decision. You guys are staying home.”
He reached his arm out from under his blanket. It’s no longer a blanket of superheroes or emojis or matchbox cars. It’s the blanket of a young man.
His bedroom is the place of a young man.
He reached for me with the hand and arm of a young man.
“Mom, that was a really good decision. Thank you.”
It wasn’t an easy decision. It was balanced on the tightwire tension between fear and wisdom.
Fear says, “Absolutely not. I’m keeping my kids safe inside our tower until the world is safe enough for them to come out.”
Wisdom says, “Maybe they should go to school. I mean, what if they don’t find this person tomorrow? What if she stays hidden for another week? What do we do then, just keep on keeping them inside? Protection is an illusion. We can’t run from what we’re afraid of.
Fear says, “Stop being rational. There’s a crazy person with a gun out there. Shut the doors and lock them.”
Wisdom says, “Let yourself protect them this time. This isn’t a reward, a sick day, a snow day, or even excessive. Let yourself say yes this time.”
We got our texts at 5:00 this morning. The school district had chosen the path of wisdom as well. It’s a big deal when the school district says, “Don’t send your kids today. We cannot keep them safe.”
My friend Erin teaches at a high school nearby, and she has personally experienced a school shooting in her building. The cancellation was personal for her. She wrote these words today:
Let’s be very clear, today is not a bonus day off; this is not a snow day, a joyous occasion, or a reason for celebration. Over 600,000 students and teachers in Colorado were stranded with no place to go because their school was no longer a safe place for them. This is a wake up call that in our state a mentally ill person can quickly and easily access a weapon and hold us all hostage. For those of us who have experienced a school shooting, an increasingly less exclusive club, this brings forth many fears and unsettling feelings. My only hope is that this situation will bring forth measurable change.
Today we have had hard and honest conversations at our house. We have talked about mental illness, gun laws, metal detectors, school safety, “credible threats,” and the shooting that changed everything twenty years ago this week.
My boys and I have a long history of hard conversations. As always, I don’t pretend to know the answers. I only promise to tell the truth.
We have prayed against fear, we have asked for wisdom, and we have thanked God for the people who keep the information, keep the laws, and keep us safe.
Thank you, officials. Your decision was extreme and important, not rash or in error. To close more than one thousand schools, all to keep more than a half million students safe, I stand and applaud. You did the right thing.
Tomorrow, they all go back to school.
Wisdom says it’s time.