A fifth-grade teacher by the name of Ali Kemp took to Twitter on Tuesday to share a harrowing experience she and her students went through during an active shooter lockdown that was ultimately a false alarm. Her thread went viral but has since been deleted.
"Today, I cowered in a closet with my fifth grade students," she said in the now-deleted thread. "I locked doors and switched off tech. They wiggled and squished and whimpered. I squished in after."
Kemp said that teachers and students first heard an alarming announcement declaring that they should all commence the lockdown procedure and that it was not a drill.
After 15 seconds of panic in the small space, a second announcement came through the intercom making a correction — the school should proceed with a lockout, not a lockdown. A lockout is a drill in which a threat exists outside the school and requires that any students outside enter the building, all doors be locked, and for security to guard the outer perimeter; a lockdown is when the threat is inside the building and mandates that lights be shut off, doors be locked, and students remain quiet in a hiding area.
Although the entire experience lasted only 30 seconds, it still forced the children and their teacher to confront the possibility that they might be murdered by a shooter. Despite assuring her class that schools are safe places to be, Kemp said she could sense that, at just 10 years old, the students already knew her platitudes were empty.
Kemp ended her thread by urging people to take action by participating in marches and writing and calling their legislators.
“Because it just...shouldn’t be like this,” she wrote. “We shouldn’t have to live like any one of us could be a victim. So all of us must be the change.”
The LOCKDOWN. LOCKS. LIGHTS. OUT OF SIGHT. THIS IS NOT A DRILL announcement had been made not 15 seconds before. They struggled to pull the doors that can’t contain us a bit closer. The class snuggled nervously, hearts hammering. I didn’t have to shush the way I do during drills.— Ali Kemp (@schmalisonkemp) March 7, 2018
Fifteen seconds later came a correction. EXCUSE ME. THERE WAS A MISTAKE. THIS IS A LOCKOUT, NOT A LOCKDOWN. WE HAVE BEEN PLACED ON A LOCKOUT DUE TO A NEIGHBORHOOD INCIDENT. LOCKOUT.— Ali Kemp (@schmalisonkemp) March 7, 2018
Thank god. A simple miscommunication. But for thirty seconds, it had been real. Not a drill. Thirty seconds of blood pounding in my ears. Of students’ eyes on the ground. On the closet doors. On my face.— Ali Kemp (@schmalisonkemp) March 7, 2018
For thirty seconds I wondered if today would be the day. The day I have to use the training. To become a fighting target so others can escape. To decide whether to leave my own children motherless in order to save students.— Ali Kemp (@schmalisonkemp) March 7, 2018
When we breathed heavy, thick relief and moved out from the closets into Lockout, my ears kept pounding. Ten year old eyes darted to see if peers were equally frightened. Ten year old hands shook slightly.— Ali Kemp (@schmalisonkemp) March 7, 2018
I praised them for the flawlessness of their trained reactions. I awarded the coveted behavior points they collect to earn popcorn parties. The Lockout only lasted fifteen more minutes. The speaker blared ALL CLEAR. ALL CLEAR.— Ali Kemp (@schmalisonkemp) March 7, 2018
An hour later, alone, bent over my wheezing breast pump, I cried. I’d debriefed them with the oft repeated reassurance that because of our training and protocols, we were safe.— Ali Kemp (@schmalisonkemp) March 7, 2018
School is a safe place to be, I’d said. We work very hard to keep you safe, I said. The watery smiles and minuscule nods I was given were wrenching agony. They smelled the lie. They are ten. And they know closet doors won’t save them.— Ali Kemp (@schmalisonkemp) March 7, 2018
Demand action. Call. March. Write. For god’s sake, vote. Because it just...shouldn’t be like this. We shouldn’t have to live like any one of us could be a victim. So all of us must be the change. @Everytown @MomsDemand— Ali Kemp (@schmalisonkemp) March 7, 2018
She’s right. If you’d like to be part of the movement for stricter gun control, a good way to do so is by keeping up with Everytown, an activist group fighting for gun reform across the country. Their list of “7 Actions You Can Take to Prevent Gun Violence” is an easy starting point.
There are several upcoming demonstrations to keep in mind, if you'd like to participate. Organizers of the Women's March have scheduled the "Enough" national school walkout for March 14; on March 24, half a million people are expected to take part in the "March for our Lives" protest in Washington D.C.; on April 20, thousands of students and teachers have pledged to carry out another national school walkout.