By: Nick Dal Porto
A surprise lockdown alert interrupted a peaceful 4th period.
It was quiet throughout the classrooms at Design Tech. Suddenly, without warning a piercing screech sounded through the building, breaking through the dull buzz of the various rooms and classes. With a momentary stop, a voice swiftly announced that a lockdown was in progress. This had been routine – just last week the same voice and same siren was heard in the “all-school” lockdown drill. However, there was one minor difference. One omitted phrase made the difference between a borderline laughing matter and complete and total chaos. This time, there was no “drill”.
With an almost unnatural grace, students and staff sprang to action. Blinds were shuttered with superhuman speed. Tables were tossed around like they were made of air. Chairs were thrown to barricade doors. Life felt like slow motion. Some emerged as leaders, yelling through the din, shouting orders. Others began to hide, with a unreal and sickening thought forming in their heads. This wouldn’t happen to us. This couldn’t happen to us. For a lucky bunch, the fear lasted several minutes, although it felt like hours. Some stood barricaded for nearly twenty minutes, unsure what was really going on, ignoring the barrage of staff attempting to enter their rooms.
Students had trouble making sense of all the commotion. Jonathan Ferreira was in a breakout space at the time of the siren. “I was very worried. I left the room and ran to the nearest classroom.” he tensely recited. “My heart was beating. I thought it was a drill, but there’s always that thought, y’know.”
Administration staff realized the quickly needed to take action. Hanan, Lana, Melissa, and Dr. Montgomery divided the building to quadrants and began to tell students and staff to stand down. “We knew it wasn’t the real thing, so we went to give the all-clear,” Hanan said. “We made an intercom announcement, but you can’t hear it in the classrooms. We also emailed all parents on MailChimp and text them on OneCall, our emergency communication platform.” She added all the communication was necessary because they “saw students on their phones” and knew students could have potentially texted parents, concerning them.
However, even with all the communication that the lockdown announcement was a mistake, some teachers refused to yield. One in particular was Mr. Groat, who kept his mathematics classroom (Room 227) barricaded the longest. Hanan, students, and various staff all tried to tell him the lockdown was over, but to no avail. “It was awesome! Ms. Anderson came over and was telling us ‘It’s just a drill!’. I was telling the kids ‘She’s trying to trick us! Stay quiet!’” After recollecting he said, “I was waiting for the official notification. I didn’t even want to pick up the phone. The students really took the lead. We even took the feedback from the original drill and built an even better barricade.” As Groat talks, there’s a streak of orange paint and sheetrock dust on ground, and a chunk missing from the corner of his wall, a sure side of his class’s effective barricade. “I think we did what we were supposed to do,” he proudly concluded.
And what was to blame for this wild turn of events? Paul Cerra commented, “I can’t really give specifics, but during a routine test of the elevator alarm system the lockdown alarm was triggered.” So that was it. One lousy elevator threw the entire Design Tech High School into a fever pitch, feeling their lives could be at risk. However, this mishap showed one thing: the students and staff are prepared, and can quickly react to an adverse situation. The courageous displays from students, staff, and administration was both welcome, reassuring and a true testament to our school’s community.