I had no idea what the day would hold when I arrived on campus at 7:15
I was giving a quiz on Book One of “1984” to my senior English class. I had joked in the days leading up to it that I was sorry for ruining their Valentine’s Day. As they were working, I dropped Hershey Kisses on their desks and said “Here’s a kiss from me while you’re taking your quiz.” We all laughed… well, I laughed.
First period took their quiz. At the beginning of second period, which is my study hall, we had a fire drill. Third period took their quiz. Fourth period took their quiz. Twenty minutes before fourth period was over, the fire drill alarm sounded. We all looked at each other with confusion, since we had just had a fire drill earlier that day. I told my students to leave unfinished quizzes on their desks. I grabbed my phone and keys, made sure everyone was out of the room, and headed downstairs.
Students left their backpacks in the room. There were phones plugged in the wall, charging. The laptop cart was open.
When we got downstairs and started walking toward our fire drill location, I heard what sounded like firecrackers. It turned out to be gun shots. I saw others running, so I ran. My class scattered like cockroaches and ran to the closest classrooms, as they had been instructed to do. I made it back upstairs to my room with five students from my class. There were about ten students from the room next door who I also took in. I locked the door. We stayed in a safe place in my classroom.
As 2:27, I texted my friend, asking what the hell was going on.
We had no idea. Where did the shots come from? Where was the shooter? Were there multiple shooters? Is he still on campus? Is he headed our way? We just sat and waited. There wasn’t any information being released, as it was impossible to do so with events rapidly unfolding. We just sat in my room, in uncomfortable silence. I texted my husband and mom to let them know that there was an active shooter on campus. I texted coworkers to see what was going on. My son is in 6th grade at the middle school next door. He texted me to see what was going on, since he was on a Code Red at his school. I told him there was an active shooter on my campus. I told him that I was ok, that I wasn’t hurt, and that I was safe in my classroom. He told me that he was scared. I tried to ease his fears. This was his first Code Red. I needed him to know that he was safe, his teacher was well-trained, and everything would be ok. I think I needed to hear that just as much as he did.
At 3:13 I posted “Shooting at school. I’m safe.” on Facebook.
I then began getting texts from friends on the outside. They were letting me know what was being reported. I only had my phone with me. My computer was on my desk, and I couldn’t get to it. I heard from a coworker and friend of over ten years that she had been shot. One of my yearbook photographers texted me that she had been shot, was ok, and was being taken to the hospital. I couldn’t call them. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t cry. So, I continued to sit.
We were in the room for about 2-2.5 hours, until the SWAT team let us out. They came in with very large guns drawn. I had to identify myself as the classroom teacher. I gave them access to my closets. They secured the room and made sure that we were safe, and no one was in the room who didn’t belong. We grabbed our belongings. We were instructed to exit the room with our hands raised over our heads. We walked toward the stairs. The students were instructed to drop their bags. We walked past close to 100 law enforcement men and women. I thanked every single one of them.
We made it safely across the street from school. I called my mom, who had my daughter with her, to let her know I was safe and off campus. I called my husband, who was feverishly trying to get toward campus to meet me and get my son. Clearly there was no way he was going to be able to do that, so I told him to meet me at the hotel where we’d be taken.
At 5:18 I posted “Update: I’m ok. Released & heading somewhere safe.” on Facebook.
Some of my other students saw me and ran to hug me. It was so bizarre. We waited for a bus to take us to the hotel. I boarded the bus and sat with two other English teachers. We shared our experience over the past few hours, still in shock and disbelief of what we had just survived. We arrived at the hotel, went inside the ballroom, and check in with police and FBI officers.
Once we had been interviewed, we were free to leave. It was at that point that I met up with my husband and son. My son ran to me and hugged me tighter than he has in a very long time. My husband did the same. I assured them that I was ok. I saw one of my seniors, who has been in the room with me, waiting for her mother. She couldn’t get her on the phone, so I told her to come with me. I didn’t want her to stay there alone. We walked to the nearby plaza, and met my husband and son at Moe’s. While there, her mother came; she hugged me and thanked me for keeping her daughter safe. She teared up. I was still to shocked to cry. I tried to order dinner, but I couldn’t even think straight. I wasn’t hungry. We decided to take my dinner to go.
At 7:27 I posted “Update: I’m at Moe’s with the boys. I’m fine. Not hurt.” on Facebook.
We drove to my parents’ house, which is where my daughter had been since school was over for her at 2 p.m. My mom opened the door, and practically knocked me over. I lost count of how many times she kissed my cheeks and told me she loved me. I sat at their kitchen table eating dinner. I wasn’t really hungry, but I made myself eat.
My aunt called to see how I was. I honestly don’t remember what I told her. She laughed and said “Sarah, you just told me the same thing three times.” I laughed and apologized. My brain was like scrambled eggs.
We gathered the kids and went home. I spoke to my cousin who is a reporter on the ABC affiliate in Buffalo. He wanted to make sure I was ok and ask me some questions in preparation for an interview I was going to do with him in the morning.
At 9:12 I posted the following on Facebook: “I’m trying to process what happened today. I can’t even wrap my head around it. I was in my classroom giving a quiz to my seniors. The fire alarm rang. It seemed odd, since we had a fire drill this morning. I went outside with my students as per normal. Then I heard shots. I ran back up to my classroom. I was in my room with 15 students for over two hours. About 8-10 SWAT team officers came in with large guns & escorted us out of my room. We walked off campus and were then taken to a nearby hotel. We were all questioned. I’ve been told that I was heroic. I don’t feel very heroic. I did my job. I kept my students safe. I thanked every FBI and local officer I walked past. There is a long road ahead of us. I am home with my family now and I am safe. I am proud of my students, coworkers & school. I am positive. I am passionate. I am proud to be an Eagle. #DouglasStrong”
I don’t know what time I went to bed. I didn’t sleep well.