Last weekend’s false alarm, or lack thereof, shows flaws in College emergency preparedness
In April 1999 my dad got on a plane and flew from our home in Northern California to Littleton, Colorado, to visit a high school. When he got to the football field, the entire 100 yards were covered with flowers, photographs and candles. People were sobbing everywhere. This was Columbine High School, just a few days after the Columbine Massacre, which killed 12 students. “Never again,” they said through their tears.
Unfortunately, it happened again. On Tuesday, April 17, 2007 I brought a copy of The New York Times into my fourth grade classroom. “Yesterday 32 people were shot and killed at Virginia Tech by another student. This is the largest mass shooting since Columbine,” I told them during show and tell. One night before the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Tech Massacre, Kenyon was on lockdown, and hardly anyone knew about the lockdown until after the fact.
At Virginia Tech, two people were shot before the police apprehended a suspect. After the suspect was apprehended, they decided not to put the school on lockdown. Thirty more people were murdered. The police had caught the wrong guy and students did not know that there was an active shooter on campus. It is likely that many lives would have been saved if the school had followed the proper lockdown procedure.
On Saturday night, I was washing my face when my roommate walked into the bathroom, her face white. “I just got in two group messages that we’re on lockdown and someone might have a gun on campus,” she said. I took her back to our room, locked the door, lowered the blinds, turned off all the lights, and had her come sit on my bed, which was the farthest from the door and window. While we sat there in the dark, we heard kids walking around, playing music, and speaking loudly. They either did not know that the campus was on lockdown, or didn’t fully understand what a lockdown entails.
We at Kenyon were lucky that the suspect taken into custody on Saturday night did not have a gun and that the Sheriff and Campus Safety were able to take control of the situation. Under different circumstances, the student body’s lack of knowledge of lockdown procedure, and the technical problems that the College experienced in notifying the campus, could have added Kenyon to the growing list of college shootings.
In the lockdown drills at my high school, we were taught that a lockdown is much more than just locking a classroom door. In an active shooter situation it is paramount that a shooter have no idea there are people in a given room. During a lockdown, everyone should go inside the nearest enclosed space, lock the doors and windows, turn off the lights, close the blinds and cover windows that do not have blinds, move away from all doors and windows and stay completely silent.
There are people on campus who are specifically trained to deal with an active shooter situation, like Community Advisors (CAs) and faculty. But many students do not know what to do in a lockdown. To prevent the kind of tragedy that happened at Virginia Tech 10 years ago from happening at Kenyon, it is essential that every student understand what to do if there is an active shooter on campus. All students should be required to undergo active shooter training, not just CAs.
Kenyon may be isolated, but we are not immune to the consequences of gun violence. It would be foolish for us to take our safety for granted.
Jessie Gorovitz ’19 is an economics major from Berkley, California. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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