Code Red—God and Guns
I've crouched in a corner hiding from an imaginary shooter twice in my life.
The first time was when my son was 10. We went to a birthday party for one of his friends that included playing laser tag at a local outfit. There, strapped into a bleeping vest, I ran through the black maze in the dark trying to dodge everyone else in their bleeping vests, and I was terrified. The experience of feeling stalked, even by a 10 year old holding a play gun that emits beams of light, was so traumatizing that I found a corner where I crouched, knees up in front my vest to hide its blinking lights, hoping nobody would find me while I waited for the game to end.
The next time I crouched in a corner to hide from a shooter was not voluntary.
I lead a museum program that takes me into ten senior high schools in Miami-Dade County each year. I'm currently winding things down for this edition and am visiting the classrooms for our feedback sessions. This afternoon, I happened to be in a school when a Code Red drill started. This is when students and teachers put into action the training they've been given in the case of an active shooter at their school. From one instant to the next, a calm conversation with the kids was blasted by a loud buzzer and suddenly the teacher was up and crossing the classroom floor to turn off the lights, lock the classroom door, and close the blinds that give onto the hallway. Simultaneously the students moved en masse into a corner of the classroom away from the door and windows where they crouched under desks. I had no idea what was going on so I did the same thing: I hunched under a desk alongside 20 students and their teacher. I asked the 17-year old girl beside me what was happening and she whispered back, a Code Red practice, and then had to explain to me what that meant. (I moved to Miami from Canada and am still learning about this place.)
Glancing around me from there under that desk, I noticed several of the juniors were wearing what were clearly school-issued t-shirts with the caption, Graduation Class 2020. And there, hiding in a dark corner with all these kids, as I stared at their shirts in the long shadow of the Parkland school shooting just a year ago, all I could think to myself was, not at this rate.