The Wingspan

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The Wingspan

The Wingspan

Rattling the Handle: A First Person Account of Realizing the Importance of Drills


Words: Miranda Mason

Photos: Caroline Oppenheimer

As a writer, I have always struggled with an overactive imagination, which is why I was one of the few people in my class who didn’t continue to laugh and chat as Dr. Perkins came onto the PA system to announce that a lockdown drill was now taking place.

Most of my peers treated this drill as time away from classwork, or as a boring nuisance that made them sit on the floor in the dark for no apparent reason. They moved sluggishly getting to the corner of the room, and their giggles didn’t die down even as our teacher gave them a whispered lecture.

I got up silently, my mind already visualizing what this situation would be like if this wasn’t a drill, if there actually was someone roving through our school looking to kill. I realized that this drill was more than what my classmates thought it to be, that it was a time to practice what to do if exactly what I was imagining occurred. With that thought in mind, I treated this lockdown as I would have if Dr. Perkins hadn’t added onto his speech, “this is a drill.”

There are many things to consider during something as terrifying as a school shooting, but what I focused on most while we practiced the lockdown was how I was going to react and what I would do to keep myself and my classmates safe.

DSC_0066I’ve been able to receive some instruction on what to do in the exact situation this drill was preparing me for, and during that instruction a question was directed to me: What are you willing to do to stay safe in a dangerous situation?

Having had time to think over my answer to that question, I did not hesitate to position myself close to the door when the lockdown took place—I had already decided that if hiding didn’t work I was willing to fight for both my life and my classmates’ lives.

Despite having the mechanical knowledge to defend against a shooter and the will to do so if it came to it, I was far from relaxed as I participated in the drill. Even with the knowledge that it was a drill, even with the knowledge on what to do if it wasn’t, there is something unnerving about sitting in the dark waiting for something to happen.


The room wasn’t completely silent, the noise of kids shifting around and a pencil snapping prevented that, but the school as a whole was much quieter than usual. This lack of noise brought to attention how easy it is to hear someone moving through the school: the footsteps of the administration roaming the halls, a faint crackle of a radio, and most disturbing of all, the rattle of locked doors trying to be opened was audible.

My overactive imagination paired with my decision to treat the drill as if it was a real lockdown meant it wasn’t hard to imagine that those footsteps didn’t belong to an administrator but a shooter, and that the rattling of door handles meant thirty or so lives depended on a teacher remembering what to do during a lockdown and not whether that teacher would get a slap on the wrist for not following procedure.

This lockdown brought into sharp focus for me exactly what was on the line if someone dangerous was loose in our school, and it made me realize how important it is to practice for something we all hope will never happen. I was able to take this lockdown seriously, just as I was able to see the value in practicing it. I just hope that my classmates who didn’t realize the same thing will discover the importance of practicing locking the door when another drill takes place and not when it is someone besides an administrator who is rattling the handle.

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