‘Dad, we practiced if a bad guy comes in our school’

Perhaps short of someone seeing combat in the military, I cannot imagine any parent is ever ready to hear those words from their kid.

But that was the line Addy blurted out in the car on Monday as we were heading to an appointment.


On what was otherwise a fairly normal Monday in my life, I spent much of the day in meetings or on the phone discussing early childhood education, journalism education and district parent-teacher matters, including getting an update from our superintendent.

The conversation I had with Addy, though, was something I was largely unprepared for and it absolutely chilled me.

In the car, Addy informed me her class had an intruder drill. Apparently, this is something that happens at the beginning of the school year and was reiterated that day.

They discussed turning the lights out, locking the doors, staying still and, if it was necessary, fighting back against the bad guy with musical instruments or whatever they had available.

I know full well this is the world we live in. I know we must do these drills so that we can educate and equip our kids to be prepared for these sad and all-to-common tragedies.

But it breaks my heart.

My daughter was adamant that there was no bad guy inside the school this time and that it was only a drill. She also told me she is glad that no one has ever attacked kids at a school.

Heartbreaking words, right to the core. Because honestly, I just don't have it in me to tell her otherwise. Not yet.

I cannot tell her I remember exactly where I was as the news broke about two teenagers killing their classmates at Columbine High School. I cannot bring myself to tell her the story of racing to my mom's home, where she was babysitting Addy, a few years ago after the Newtown elementary school slaughter so I could hug her and hold her tight. I cannot begin to explain to her how two students in Jonesboro, Ark., pulled a fire alarm so they could pick off classmates as they ran outside.

What I can tell her, what I will tell her, at some point, is that irresponsible gun owners should be locked up for life. That human life is precious. And that we live in a world where you can be killed in a mall, in a school, at a restaurant, at a movie theater, in a church or in your own home.

But you cannot live scared and you cannot stop living your life.

The entire conversation is absolutely, unequivocally heartbreaking. I’ll never know what kind of effect these drills have on her. Or what kind of lasting effects the thoughts of school shooters inside our classrooms will have on any of our children.

Sure, they’re resilient. But they’re also vulnerable. And human, wrought with fears that are more real today than they ever have been.

When the time is right, she and I will be able to talk about not only where school shootings have happened, but why they are happening.

Somehow, I will swallow hard and tell her about more than 188 shootings at elementary and middle schools, high schools and colleges.

And as I think about the drills, it seems to make more and more sense to talk about why we have them.

Tornado and fire drills, while still a little scary, make sense to us and our children. The kids can see how tornadoes and fires are dangerous. But intruder drills carry with them the added fears of an unknown danger. Something they can't yet comprehend. So, along with these drills also come difficult discussions about the sorrowful reality of why they exist.

And I'll have those with Addy. Just not yet.

Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.