I have gone back and forth whether to blog about this or not. But here is my thought process: 1. I use my blog as a journal more than anything else…so that one day I can go back and see what I was up to. 2. I haven’t really talked about my emotions concerning this event with very many people. 3. I am fairly certain about 5 people read my blog on a daily basis. So why not?
Last Wednesday morning (September 26, 2012) I was in my office like always, my 2 student aides had come to class early, like always, and one of our counselors (who is also a friend of mine) was in the office as well. At about 7:58 our attendance secretary came on the intercome and said “Stillwater Junior High, we are in a lock down NOW!” Let me tell you, we have practiced a lock down drill several times…easy peasy. The real thing, terrifying!!! In the event there is a lock down you are supposed to lock the office door (which the lock is only on the outside of the door, DUMB) , turn off the lights, close the blinds, and go into our hallway (inside the office) and lock the doors and turn of the lights again. My keys were laying on my desk…and when Kit came on the intercome…I literally opened every drawer in my desk, dug through my purse before realizing they were right in front of me. Thankfully, Julianna (who assumed the announcement was a drill) calmly locked the door and closed the blinds!
Within 2 minutes of being in lockdown, Brian called me to ask me if I was ok! I told him “yes, why? what is going on?” He let me know that someone had been shot but didn’t know any details. He was with a parent of a student who heard the shooting and then ran out of the building.
I was wierdly calm after knowing there was a shooting. Mainly because of our location. For someone to get to us, they would have to go through 3 sets of locked doors. It seemed like we were in lock down for FOREVER. Eventually one of our principles came pounding on our door screaming “Its Mrs. Watts, Its Mrs. Watts!!!!!!” She unlocked the doors and told Julianna she needed every available counseler NOW!
Julianna left. Myself and 2 students stayed in our hiding place. At this point I knew that we were at least safe, otherwise Julianna would not be able to leave the office. I kept in contact with Brian and he told me that a student had been shot, and it was a possible suicide. I had been keeping my two aides pretty informed throughout all this, but I decided not to tell them it was a suicide until we knew for sure.
Julianna eventually texted me to let me know that we were sending kids to Cimarron Plaza. After about 50 minutes (what seemed like forever) Mrs. Watts finally came and got us out of the room, and we waited in the gym while busses transported students to meet up with their parents.
Now I am going to back track. (To the best of my knowledge) One of our students (who I will not name…but google it and you will find it yourself) decided to steal his parents gun and bring it to school. At approximately 7:57 he pulled the gun out in a hallway in front of two classrooms and shot himself between the eyes. Because school hadn’t officially started yet, there were still a lot of students out in the halls. Most students heard the gun shot, turned around and saw this student colapse to the ground. The details that theses students have given about what they saw is absolutely traumatizing. They are things that nobody should see in a lifetime. Julianna was called out of our room to calm down a student who was standing next to the student who shot himself, and as a result got blood on her. She eventually had to help cover the hallway with paper so that when the students evacuated they didn’t have to see anything.
Back to the busses. Our administration asked us to ride the bus with the students to help with crowd control. When we got there, there were kids and parents everywhere…I stood there for a second and felt like the Titanic had crashed, and we were back to shore trying to see who all made it out on a rescue boat! Kids were crying, parents trying to find their kids, police everywhere…basically organized chaos. Hellicopters were already circling around and news casters were already on the scene trying to interview students while they try to find their parents. After about an hour, most kids had left with their parents. We decided to relocate to the high school gym to figure out our next step. At this point the survial mode is starting to wear off..and the severity of the situation begins to set in.
We finally got permission to go back to the Junior High if you had your keys to get in your car and go home! I luckily had my keys but remembered that I had left my space heater on under my desk. I rode a bus back to the JH and had to be escorted to my office by a police officer to my office to take care of things. At this point the school had been taped off, there were at least 6 people vehicles there and an investigation vehicle. I went home and I remember feeling overwhelmed by the situation. It was hard to believe that this had actually happened.
The next morning our staff had to meet at 6:30 am for a debriefing. Our superintendent was there, as well as board members, and counselors from OSU. We had about 40 counselors in our building that day talking to students, all of them volunteers. I even had a man from OKC call me because he had his afternoon free, so he was willing to drive to Stillwater to help. I spent Thursday in crises mode once again. I just tried to be there for our counselors as best as I could be. It was a hard day. That evening after Bible study I came home and sat at our dining table. I finally had time to process everything that had happened. I felt like I was having a panic attack. I completely broke down, but it felt good to get it out.
Friday was very similar to Thursday’s workday. We had about 20 counselors come in and talk with our students who needed it. I was able to talk with one of our aides who witnessed the shooting and was a friend of the student who took his own life. We walked around the school, back and forth just talking about everything she saw and how she was feeling. I finally felt like I was helping a student instead of just sitting at my desk. At the end of the day, one of our teachers dropped of a note that one of my aides had written me.
This made my heart swell. It was a confirmation to me that I had actually helped someone throughout all this. I had to read this aloud at a staff counseling session and I just broke down. I am pretty sure every person at my table was in tears.
You never really know how you are going to be affected by something like this. I thought I was just fine. On Saturday I stayed very busy, a triathalon, coffee with friends, and the OSU game! On Sunday I was getting ready for church (which is now at the Junior High). I realized that church was at the JH and I had a total breakdown. I just started getting anxiety about going and I guess you could say I got scared. I finally got myself together, went to church fighting tears, walked in the door and just start crying again. I immediately went into my office and just sat there until I got myself together. I had no clue that I would react the way that I did. Especially since I didn’t see the shooting, or hear it. If you step back to think about the entire situation you realize, not only did we lose a student, we lost our sense of security. I have found myself in my house in the mornings when it is still dark scared that someone is going to jump out and shoot me. When I am roaming the halls at work, I worry that someone will shoot themselves while I am there. I am constantly looking behind me just to check who is in the hall. Silly, I know.
The biggest thing I have learned throughout all this is Stillwater is an amazing place to live. I can’t even being to describe the comfort, support and willingness to help from our community. Parents, Church’s Resteruants, Businesses have all been providing the staff with breakfast, lunch and snacks just about everyday. We have had so many volunteer counselers who are willing to give up their time. The support is just overwheming!
If you are reading this, thank you for the prayers, and please continue to pray for the family and everyone at SJHS.