“Staff and students, this is a Code Red. Staff, lock all doors and follow the Code Red procedures. Thank you,” the principal’s strained voice announced through the loudspeaker. In the quiet room, we all looked at each other for a moment until everyone started talking at once. Everybody looked at my Spanish teacher, really hoping she knew what in the world was going on. Maybe it’s just a drill.
“I’m not allowed to tell you guys anything, I’m sorry. You’ll find out soon enough,” she said apologetically. Even though she couldn’t tell us exactly what was happening, her eyes gave her away. This was definitely not a drill.
The cold March morning of my freshmen year of high school had started out as normal as any other day: meeting up with my friends in front of my locker, cramming for my math quiz in first period and dreading soccer tryouts. I was working on my Spanish project when the horrible announcement came on, turning my normal day into a something not so normal. I immediately thought that there had been a terrorist attack or something, at Dow Chemical, the company where almost all parents worked in my small town of Midland, Michigan. Not much else could go bad in Midland. Parents kept calling their kids making sure they were ok. My teacher talked to her husband on the phone, keeping her voice down, giving nothing away. It seemed the outside world knew everything and we were left in the dark. Never in my life had I ever felt so susceptible to danger. I could see everything that I had worked for – school, soccer, my family and my friends – slipping away; suddenly the future wasn’t so certain anymore. I grew up in such a sheltered place that I never had to worry about my safety. Although I had always considered my town to be super boring, I now realized how important security is in one’s life.
It turned out that there had been a shooting at my school. My town was plastered all over national news; that’s a first. A “mentally unbalanced” teenage boy had shot his ex-girlfriend four times then shot himself in my school parking lot. He died instantly, and she miraculously lived, coming out of the confrontation with a broken arm and a fatherless baby. I, on the other hand, came out of the experience with a lesson learned. The whole hour I sat in my classroom, I was just wondered what on earth was going on and imagined terrible things. I had never felt that vulnerable before. I thought about how amazing my life really was and how, maybe, I could never go back to it again after this. But, I was lucky. Maybe next time I won’t be so lucky; maybe I’ll be the one taken away on a stretcher, instead of just a girl on the sidelines.
Life is an incredible thing, but it is strange how easily it can be challenged and how easily it can be taken away. I believe that life is something that should be appreciated and not taken for granted. Before the Code Red, I had never realized that before. Now, I try to value everything that I have and enjoy it while I can. That, I believe, is the only way to live.
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