We never imagine that the stranger or associate beside us may be the person who we turn to in a time of need until we are faced with tragedy. It was late August, and, all of the students had just settled into a new year for many and the last for others. The day and date escape my memory, but the event remains vivid. Everyone who had second lunch was either in the cafeteria, Panther’s Den, or outside on the patio eating. Everything was calm, and nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. In an instance, some people who were eating inside the cafeteria began to trot outside as if a fight was about to break out.
My friend and I remained seated, yet curious, in the cafeteria. My best friend’s brother came into the cafeteria and sat in front of my friend and me. I was distracted of his presence of my friend’s joke, but he caught my attention when he began to explain what supposedly was going on outside. He sat down and told me, “T., they said someone outside has a gun.” My eyes squinted and lips puckered up in disbelief. I replied saying, “Are you serious, because this isn’t funny, Trey?” The fright in his eyes and paleness of his face assured me that he was telling no lie, but I still couldn’t bring myself to believe him. Seriously, who would bring a gun to our school; it was just unfathomable.
As soon as I looked up, a herd of the same students who ran outside, and more, charged into the cafeteria yelling and screaming. I recall my friend and I jokingly ducking into our bench as if we were taking cover, unconsciously knowing that we would really be taking cover in a matter of minutes. As we were ducking, we were saying, “Oh my gosh, we don’t want to die today; we’re too pretty!” These same words were followed by giggles then tears. Amusement turned into horror and laughs to tears as a faculty member burst into the cafeteria and demanded that everyone get down under the tables to take cover. I remember feeling confused, terrified, and shocked all at the same time. I became deaf to the cries and screams that surrounded me at that moment. I remember thinking that my friend would be the last person who I would ever hold or say, “I love you” to before I died. I felt like an infant as I cried helplessly and repeated to myself, “I want my parents.”
Among the cries, we were instructed to stay low and stay calm as everyone exited out of the cafeteria through the trap door on the side wall of the cafeteria. I seemed that everyone was holding someone’s hand. The guys remained gentlemen as they helped the girls over the wall that encircled the cafeteria. We all entered into the auditorium through the back way and took a seat. It became evident to us that this was not just a drill; there was actually a shooter at our school. While we were being directed into the auditorium, the shooter was tackled by our school deputy and driver education teacher, handcuffed, and arrested. As the staff explained what was going on and gave careful instruction as to what to do next, looking around at the students who filled the seats I saw their tears and faces of worry. But, past the tears, there was a sense of security knowing the persons’ shoulder you were leaning on or hand that you were holding felt the same way. There was no separation of class, race, or religion at that time. It was as if you we could almost find comfort in being around our peers.
Our tears bonded us together. They enabled us to reach out to the person next to us and ease the fright knowing that there was someone next to us who could help ease our fear as well. The tears allowed us to look past any grudges or loathing and come together as one. I believe and I know that in times of distress and struggle, people can bond together and surpass any obstacle.
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