by Hank Pollard
Special to the Sounder
The security guard watched the school entrance from beside the steps. It was now 20 minutes since the late bell, and he felt assured that there would be no more stragglers. He turned to begin his rounds.
But just then a boy carrying a bag walked by rapidly on the sidewalk, turned into the school entrance and ran up the steps. The guard shouted, “Hey you! Stop! I need to talk to you!” He did not see that the boy was wearing earbuds. The boy hurried through the front door. The guard followed him up the steps into the building. At the stairway, to the upper floors, he saw him climbing the steps two at a time. The guard shouted again, “Hey you, stop! Right now!” But the boy continued rushing up the steps and then turned into the third-floor hallway.
The guard had to think fast. Why hadn’t the boy stopped when he ordered him to? What was in the bag he was carrying? Was this kid crazy? This could be a dangerous situation and he would take no chances. Following protocol, he quickly punched a number on his phone connecting him to loudspeakers in every classroom. He announced, “An intruder has entered the building. He is now on the third floor. Lock your doors and get under the desks.” The guard then raced up the stairs. The boy was hurrying toward the end of the hallway. The guard shouted again, “Stop! This is the police! Get down on the floor!” The boy did not stop.
The teacher’s classroom was at far end of the third floor. She taught biology and it was also her homeroom. Her husband, a rifle owner, had been after her to get a concealed carry permit. He said that the rash of school and mall shootings made it necessary for her to have protection. “There are just too many wackos out there. You gotta be able to defend yourself,” he pleaded. Resisting at first, she changed her mind after the last school shooting. She was surprised that she could get the permit online and how easy it was to obtain.
She bought a handgun and at the range next to the gun store, she took several hours of training. They taught her to handle the gun safely, how to load and shoot it and how to clean and store it. She fired it a dozen or so times at the range. At school, she kept it in a locked drawer in her desk and took it home in her purse every evening. It made her very nervous, and she tried to ignore its presence, but could not.
She was leading the class in the Pledge of Allegiance when the warning announcement came. “Oh my God,” she murmured, and shouted, “Everyone, get under your desks! Now!” With trembling hands, she snatched the key from around her neck and fumbling with it, unlocked the desk drawer. She grabbed the pistol, chambered a bullet and flipped the safety. Clutching it, she ran to the door to lock it. Her heart was pounding.
At the door, she reached out to lock it. At the same moment the boy, who had halted outside, pushed the door open, knocking her hand away. Startled, she screamed and fired. The bullet pierced the boy’s forehead. He died instantly, falling on top of the bag he was carrying. His earbuds remained in place.
The classroom was the boy’s homeroom. In the bag were school books and gym clothes. There was also an envelope bearing the teacher’s name. Inside was a note reading: “My son is late today because he overslept and did not hear his alarm. He loves his music and stays up late in bed listening. I am going to put a stop to that. I know this is the second time this term he has been late and he is very worried about that. He is a good student and very conscientious. I hope you will excuse him. Thank you very much for understanding. ”
Hank Pollard lives in Orcas Island.