S1: I mean, King first taking great sixth grade, eighth grade, ninth grade. I’m in the 10th grade and 12th grade and I live in San Diego, California. I’m a touch in New Jersey. Louisville, Kentucky. Baltimore City, L.A. County, South Orange, New Jersey. I live in Seattle, Washington.
S2: I’m Elizabeth Fan, Brooklyn.
S3: I’ve been covering Game Islands as a reporter for The Trace for four years and for the past couple of months in partnership with Slate, my colleague Alon Stephens and I have interviewed two dozen students of all ages in towns and cities across the country.
S2: We wanted to know what they see, what they hear and what they feel during what has become a routine experience in America. The school shooter drill.
S3: As I listened to these kids in their living rooms and bedrooms, two things struck me first. This is a generation that has grown up doing lockdown drills.
S2: Second, most of these kids know exactly what the drills are for. Whether we adults realize it or not.
S3: Before I had these conversations, I didn’t really understand how the constant threat of shootings has changed the experience of going to school. You’re about to hear from some of the kids we spoke to from kindergartners through high school seniors. You’ll hear about the many different ways these drills affect nearly every student in the country.
S4: I could easily a flip picture. To see farm. I can see a monkey. I can see your puffing Markinson.
S5: Hi, my name is Lee. I am in kindergarten and I live in NuVal. But I didn’t intuited trails. Do you lock your doors in any way to Amy hiding in this dark in place of the room? If we’re teachers and we use you have a security camera to show, like if there’s APD, we are staying in a building. And last week there was a change in the building and I got a feeling stuck in my head. I was thinkI’m if we were going to be okay. McIsaac Strangeways literally just outside the door of our classroom and it was actually just our principal in stranger clothes. I saw her wearing like a boy wig with her hair up on a bun. And I thought it was kind of scary because I didn’t know who her true self wise. So like we hide it in the back room or the closet and is very clouted made friends with pain, a couple games at work, papacies just shoot. And I was like, no. I know there still is someone out there. But BDM, believe me. So one of my best friends, my best best best friends said that they believe gave me there is a window in closet and outside a window was, you know, like hanging off of the tree. They looked a little ghoulish hand, a little God. Many and we’re afraid at first. And we picked out a window and saw that it was just pinging shadows. I knew an intruder drill in case a little strange and not my principal over your fingers and wanting.
S6: Now I can see it. I think I can see a graph. I think to look to.
S7: So I was in gym, I think I was a fitness class.
S8: We were doing math in our textbooks like had a problem on the board.
S7: Oh, I was playing with Legos ofeach. We were learning some math. I was in my English classroom, language arts, biology, chemistry class, social studies.
S9: I just remember it being a very weird shift from thinking about calculus to thinking about how I would escape if there was someone with a gun in my school.
S10: My name is Foster. I live in Seattle. I am in first grade.
S11: I am awesome.
S10: We first did a lockdown drill last year in kindergarten. So how the teacher explained it. She was thinkin like if a wild animal came and we in the bathroom was a mouse or something, we probably well enough to do that. But it was a zoo. Will mine or some? I wasn’t talking and a lot of people were because they were squashed, but I was. The bathroom was total boring. Stinky. I will do the locked under because of the wild, I am a robber or something came barging in.
S11: Do something about it or don’t get killed by the animal. But I don’t know. It didn’t happen last year, and I don’t think it’s going to happen this year. A wild animal barging in, I mean, having walked on, you suddenly can be at least one. What, Tondo?
S12: When I was younger, we lived in New York and I went to a charter school and they would walk there with my dad every morning and every Wednesday would be a half day. So we got to go to a pizzeria and get a CS.
S13: Say, that was fun. My name is Phoebe.
S12: I’m in fifth grade and I live in South Orange, New Jersey. When I was in first grade, when I lived in New York, I asked my teacher if I could go to the bathroom. So I walked into the bathroom and I went in the stalls. This was a code red lockdown drill. Please stay wherever you are. I repeat, this is a code red lockdown jail. I was like so scared. I said I stood on top of the toilet. But then I remembered, oh, 8. My teacher told me this year to sit on the toilet and put my feet up. And then last year, my teacher told me to stand on the toilet. So I was like, wait, what do I do?
S13: And then I hear, like, footsteps outside. And I’m like, oh, my gosh. So I tried to, like, stay as quiet as I could be. Click, clack, clack, clack footsteps. And then I heard, like, the shifting of her like doorknob.
S12: It’s the vice principal if there’s anybody in here. You can come out of the bathroom and come with me to the main office.
S13: Should I trust them?
S12: I walked out of the store and I was so relieved and so like I went into the main office with her. But now in fourth grade, we had like three in one week. So like, I just remembered that I got stuck in the bathroom and like how I felt, it was like really scary and I didn’t want that happen. So like, I thought, oh, you have to drink water and then you have to use the bathroom. So like, if I stop drinking water, then I won’t have to use the bathroom. And thinking like, OK, I gotta be prepared. What if it happens like now or now?
S13: So like I just can’t drink water. Like that was like a dumb mistake cause I started to get like super bad headaches cause I was dehydrated.
S14: My name is Kennedy. I am I feel great. I live in Boston, I see one kid. He was kind of worried and thought it was real. So he had like a panic attack. He started breathing heavily. He started crying. And I was really worried about him. So then we have waited for like a few minutes and then everyone started to calm down like, it’s OK, it’s OK.
S15: It’s just fake. It’s just practice. And so I think he felt better after that.
S16: My name’s Curry in the fifth grade. And I live in Baltimore City. They didn’t really say if it was a drill. Not. They say call radical red. And then a was acting like a goofy and playing in my head. I was like, oh, gosh. Like, good. If he was real, like, we all would have got killed because you are not cooperating. Listen, we’re all gonna die. Now. Shut up. I was Bahamut. It just does scare clenched up. My head and my legs read the crap. This all is looking into my eyes. I am nothing else to do. I mean, I wouldn’t close my eyes within their party.
S17: Would have made it scary for me. Well, even more scary, those already scare.
S16: The principal on the intercom said the lockdown was over. I just felt relieved then. Just now. So happy because it wasn’t a real one. Had that not been like a fake lockdown drill, we would’ve been in first classroom for the active shooter. What did they say? A lock pick or not? Because they could open the door with whatever weapon they had and they could killed us all because they wouldn’t hurt our classroom as the first noise because they will make so much noise.
S18: Lock lights out of sight. The best place you want to be is in a corner.
S19: Most of my classes, I sit up front so I would be more safe.
S20: Everybody tries. Get to one side door. I try. I get under their desk.
S7: We were all sitting under the sink. And it was also dark because you locked the doors and you turn off the lights. There were basically people on all sides of me. Sometimes, if you like, lean your head, you can feel the other person’s hair.
S14: It’s so close. I felt like I was like a little porcupine or like a little hedgehog pulling a tub took my cell phone.
S12: And sometimes I, like, close my eyes. And I remember a TV show and like an episode of it. And I just, like, rewatch it in my mind.
S19: You know, you just got to kill the time, kids, right?
S8: They’re like playing games, like chopsticks, patty cake.
S7: Rock-Paper-Scissors buddy years on the person in front of her. They also play a game called Shotgunned during lockdown drills.
S8: A lot loader gun or shoot your gun or shield. And if you shoot them all, they’re loading you in. My name is all done. I’m in 6th grade and I live in Seattle, Wash. And we knew there was a lockdown drill that day, but we didn’t know what time. Our teacher didn’t tell us. And they announced that was a lockdown drill. And I always think this during a lockdown drill. Why do they announce it like. Well, they really announce it when someone’s in the school.
S21: Because then they’ll know that we’re all hiding.
S8: I’ve been doing lockdown drills since I was in around 1st grade. Now I really get at first I didn’t really get my heard about the first school shooting.
S22: I’m like, wow. That’s why we do lockdown drills. We get The Seattle Times every morning. So it was on the front page of Seattle Times. And I asked my parents, like, what happened?
S21: And they told me that it’s a very sad story. Stuff.
S23: My name is Colin and I am in sixth grade and I live in L.A. County. It wasn’t too bad. They just said, like, if an active shooter went on, you’re supposed to like grab kind of a blunt object to protect yourself with it. If someone were to come at you, you either like throw it at them to slow it down or if you are close to them, you just whack them in the head with it and then you grab a pencil. It’s pretty self-explanatory. Stab. The principal came on. There’s an active shooter. We are on full lockdown. And then we locked all the doors, pushed all the desks against it, grab like a textbook or scissors, you know, the stereotypical school scissors. People had pencils. And I was like, l think any of these are really going to work. If you’re against a rifle. I’m just kind of seeing people like being completely still. Everyone’s being super smart, which is kind of odd to see in a classroom. One of my friends was kind of across the room. We were kinda like changing glances, kind of shrugging like, well, we’re doing it. We kind of were there for a good few minutes and then came up on the speaker again said, the drill is over. Go back to your normal schedules. Get ready to go to lunch. My mom made me a sandwich and I was kind of just eating it and talking to my friends. You’re like, why I was so crazy? Would you carry. And things like, where were you in the classroom? We had a new kid in our grade and he was kind of like, what did you guys do this every year? I was like, knows the first time we’ve done it. And he was kind of like, oh, it’s kind of weird. I wonder why they’re doing it now. I was like, yeah, I think it’s because the increase in frequency in the shootings.
S24: Hi, I’m Macy. I’m in eighth grade and I live in South Orange, New Jersey.
S25: It goes this is a lockdown roller designed lockdown roller. And then say that like, hey, this is a drill.
S7: We’re just testing to make sure you do the right thing.
S26: It was just like we’re going to make you think that you’re in a life or death situation. I was freaking out. I was genuinely not sure if I would finish the day alive. There wasn’t anything I could do to fix that.
S27: I mean, I don’t know, maybe this is like a super common feeling. Or maybe nobody at my school feels they were taught to tell because people don’t talk about it much. It has this weird feeling of I could go to school and I could die. Pick a day of the week, take calendar and throw a dart at the calendar. I could die on that day. Do you still talk with your friends and you still have fun and you still complain about your math homework? And it’s such a strange experience that shifted for me because I’d never been that terrified for my life before. And it’s really strange shift. I guess.
S9: I wouldn’t hide. I would run or fight lockdown. Basically, we were just sitting ducks and we were just sitting in our classroom and hoping that no one came in.
S18: You run in like a zigzag pattern if like you’re running away from something like a gun.
S7: Oh, you’re so supposed to spread out so we’re not clumped together.
S20: Take a belt and wrap it around the like handle of the door and then someone would hold it.
S9: Lock the door, tie it with a shoelace and then also prepare to counter in case that doesn’t work.
S7: And then we’ll I got behind desks and got something ready to throw heavy blocks, light spheres and rectangles and triangles because that’s the heaviest thing.
S23: Actual pair scissors might work for like if you’re closing them.
S18: Belike for long distance, maybe like a bin so you can like chalk it up then maybe trip someone in all my classes. I just think about what I would do in my chemistry class.
S28: Someone said that if there were a shooter we could splash him in the eyes with some of the chemicals.
S1: We were kind of like joking, right? Like we’re going to take our water bottles and just stand by the door and like, hit him on the head or something.
S18: But like, not really seriously through computers. You could throw water bottles, like throw chairs, just anything to keep you safe. I guess.
S29: I’m Satchwell, I’m a sophomore in Louisville, Kentucky.
S28: I don’t remember when I the first year I started doing drills. I remember it was certainly in elementary school because I remember that in middle school and high school they told us why we were really doing the drills. And I remember being a little upset because we’d been lied to in elementary school. They said that’s the purpose of the drills was to trick the intruder or shoot or dangerous person or whatever euphemism they use. Trick that person into thinking that the whole school was on a field trip. And then in middle and high school, they told us that it was just to make it harder for intruders to find and kill us.
S29: We do want a year and it’s at the same day when we do the fire drills and the tornado drills and the earthquake drills, we get all the natural disaster drills and then the school shooter drill throughout the day after the shooter drills, the days after many teachers talk about what we would do for their specific classroom if there were a shooter in the class. We were. And my European history teacher said, well, if there is a shooter, I’d be so mad.
S28: I just go smack him and you’d all jump out this window and run down a U. University of Louisville.
S29: Very helpful. But he talked about how we were on the first floor so that we in that classroom, we might be the first ones, first ones to be shot. I’m not personally scared for my safety about it, but it’s still disturbing. We all think about what we would do because it means it will be some school somewhere.
S9: My name is Margot. I live in Baltimore, Maryland, and I’m in 12th grade. We have two different kinds of drills basically for an armed intruder which would be locked down and Alice, which is basically do whatever you can. Alice is an acronym for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. We can alert people, we can evacuate and we can even counter basically is what they’re telling us is that we have permission and that we’re encouraged to counter a shooter if given the opportunity. It was very practical, like I think we all kind of had to detach ourselves. I became more used to just thinking like, what is the best course of action to, like, save myself, like if I were in a situation. Generally, when I’m in a room with a window, I think about because with running, there’s always the risk that you run into the shooter. And then with staying in lockdown, there’s the risk of becoming a sitting duck. And so for me, that seems like the best approach. So that’s usually what I would go with in a drill. Obviously, we’re not breaking windows. Every time we have a drill, countering always comes up. Some people have some fun with it because they’re like, okay. And what can I throw at this person? And to some extent, it’s kind of just being ridiculous because a water bottle isn’t gonna be a fair match against any R15. And we all kind of know that. But we’re also being serious at the same time because it’s kind of all we have. I maybe think about this a little bit too much, but I think a lot of high schoolers are thinking about this a little too much.
S30: My name is Schneider. I’m in 12th grade. I live in Baltimore City. I think I was a Fitz’s class, actually, and thus kind of like a lab set up. So tables are long. Lots of cabinets. You know, sinks on top of the deaths. And basically, like some kids hid in the cabinet that they could fit in. I never felt unsafe in school, but still, it’s just think Ebola is really scary. How other schools? This, Drew, was very real and it could be very well for us. Like, I’m okay right now and I’m safe right now, but you might get to wander when you start thinking things. And then I’m a very nervous, anxious child. I also have a big imagination, especially for somebody my age. You would think you wouldn’t be as big as it is. So in my mind, I can just imagine like, well, what if somebody comes in a place and they just are like, oh, I know. With kids in a cabin in open a cabin. My friends in there now we have friends anymore. I know PI sounds really weird because I can be very aware that nothing was going to happen, but I still can just imagine like the bad things happening. I know like if somebody really, really wanted to hurt somebody with us, they’re going to do it. There’s nothing you can do to stop somebody from hurting somebody. And that’s just a fake.
S25: You can lock the door, but if you really want to get in, he can find a way to get in. What if the cops don’t get their face enough? That happens if you really want to kill all of us.
S30: He can, but just that she’s been blind on is all we can do is do drones and try to protect ourselves. Or if you come too close and we can try to run or you just can try to protect kids. But a lot of times people come in to do miss large amounts of damage. They’re going to bring a gun.
S31: And what can anybody do against a gun?
S19: I don’t feel anything in particular.
S7: It’s just another drill for me or I like pretty cool about it because we do it a lot. The shootings aren’t just going to stop.
S26: They’re going to keep happening is making it safer for the people that like are ready for it. But then if the shooting actually comes, like sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it. I only think about it.
S27: That’s cool.
S19: I don’t know why. Like, I want to be like, okay, I hope I finish the Spanish assessment. I hope I do well on my science. Doesn’t want to think about how can I best hide from a shooter.
S7: Kindergartners have to be practicing for like a shooter coming to the school when like you don’t. We shouldn’t have to. At first I was like, scared.
S32: I was kind of like, comfy. But like, I got this and I was just hoping it wasn’t real small things. It was the principal who is coming, not like anybody. That was like killing me.
S3: This story is a collaboration of Slate and the Trace, it was reported by me, Elizabeth Mann, Brooklyn and Alon Stephens and produced by Sara burning him. Our editors were low and low and Tollywood Word Research and Production Assistance by Rosemary Bellson, MAXINE by Benjamin, Fresh Photography by Stacy Crannis and Art Direction by Lisa Larson Walker.
S33: Special thanks to June Thomas, Laura Bennett, Daniel Nass, Myles Korman, Allison Benedicte and Jared Holt. Finally, we’d like to thank all the kids who shared their experiences with us and the parents who supported them. Some kids who did not want to use their real names chose to use pseudonyms. For more about these students and their experiences, go to slate.com. Slash lockdown.