Holding The Trauma of Hold-In Place


Elaina Freeman , Writer

As students born in the late 2000’s we grew up surrounded by defining moments in world history and pop culture. Presidential elections, celebrity power couples and box office hits are now being considered nostalgic. Most generations have their own version of these events. Each version  of these feels truly unique to each generation, even though every generation has them. There is one thing that our generation has dealt with that other generations luckily grew up without; school lockdowns and hold in place drills. Honestly, I can never think of a time when these did not exist in my school life. I have memories as early as kindergarten of the drills being implemented. Lockdown drills became a part of school life after The Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012.

Since 2012, there have been numerous steps taken to prepare students in case there was ever a shooting. Our school uses ALICE Training. ALICE stands for “Alert, Lockdown,Inform, Counter, Evacuate.” On the website Democrat and Chronicle it describes Hold-in place as “This means movement by students and staff should be limited while dealing with a short-term emergency. Students in hallways should return to their classrooms. “ The same site describes lockdowns as “This means school buildings and grounds are locked if there is a threat of violence in or near the school.All students from hallways or common areas should be taken into nearby classrooms, and doors should be locked.Students should be moved to a safe area in the classroom away from the door.There should be no communication through the door or room phone. Stay hidden until physically released by law enforcement.”

In Winthrop these protocols are followed and enforced on a regular basis. A hold in place requires students to stay where they are and continue learning as though everything is completely normal. Hold-in places often occur for medical reasons. Lockdowns in Winthrop look different. You have truly never experienced silence until you are in a lockdown drill. The air is thick as everyone holds their breath, too afraid to breathe. Now is the worst time to sneeze or cough because one small sound can have disastrous consequences. Even small  children understand the severity of the situation. 

I vividly remember a lockdown drill in the second grade. I had come to school already overwhelmed and stressed due to my grandmother’s recent hospitalization. I remember already feeling the day was against me and I thought my day couldn’t get any worse.  Sadly, I didn’t know what was in store for the students of the Gorman Fort Banks that day.  Our school day had just begun when it was announced that we were going to be having a lockdown drill.  Our teachers explained what this meant and even at 8 years old, we understood that there was no room for fun and games. When the clock struck the scheduled time, the lights were shut off and the class squished to the back corner of the classroom. We were packed together, in the teacher’s extra space. No one wanted to breathe, let alone dared to say anything. After what felt like centuries, a police officer unlocked the door and we were told that we were all clear. Even the sound of the policeman inserting the key in the lock was terrifying. At the time, we thought our biggest threat was a natural disaster. We had no idea why the adults were really protecting us .  Even though I didn’t understand the situation at hand, I understood exactly what I was feeling. For lack of a better word, I was scared. I was in second grade six years ago and that fear has stayed with me for the past nine years!

I can remember that day as vividly as I can recall my math homework from last night. While my math homework currently takes up more room in my brain, the trauma from these events is still there . The information of a test or what color homecoming dress I want to wear have buried the trauma of these events.  These topics have pushed aside the other thoughts, but honestly that fear will always be there.

At Winthrop High School, it has felt like there has been one hold-in place a week. While hold-in places have become routine, something about them still feels abnormal. There’s something about hold- in place that now feels so normal, that most students think nothing of it when they happen. Whenever hold-in places occur,  it feels as though this is just part of a regular day.

The truth is, while hold-in places often occur; it feels strange to think about how standard they feel now.  Even though we are perfectly safe during a hold-in place, there is still a certain uneasiness about them. There is always the thought of what-if there’s more than we think going on here? What if we’re actually in trouble?Rationally, class would not be able to continue if there was an impending danger. However the fear is still there. 

In a graph found from the Washington Post, it shows that in 2021 there were 42 school shootings. On May 25th, 2022, NPR published an article that stated 27 school shootings have happened this year.  By October 2022, this number had increased to 37 shootings this year. 

I don’t remember the last time I experienced a lock-down drill in school. With the increase in school shootings, we rarely ever practice what to do in the rare occurrence of this actually happening. 

In an article published by The Budget it states “The study found 40% increases in both stress and anxiety, as well as depression following the drills. Surprisingly, the study also found these results were strongest in High Schoolers, with increases in stress reaching over 50%”. Most high school students have a high stress level. Current high school students have the added stress of potential danger everywhere they go.

Our generation has been dealing with the concept of school shootings since we started school.  However, it’s something that people really don’t talk about. We have all experienced many lockdown drills and hold- in places over the years.  We have never had a life in school without these events.  We have grown up in a society where there is always a fear of not making it home that night.  Our parents have dropped us off each day, terrified that this might be the last time they ever see us. Our learning should not constantly be in jeopardy. We should not be penalized for wanting to receive an education. We should not feel unsafe the second we walk in the door.   Schools should be a safe place for its students, not a target on their backs. We have been preparing in case this moment ever happens for our whole lives.  However even with the right protocols in place, that does not stop children and teachers from potentially being murdered every day of the week. Any time an alarm sounds, within the walls of the school there is always the unspoken fear of an armed intruder.  When the alarm ends, students return to life as though nothing has happened.

So what does it feel like to be a student in either of the situations? Well there are a lot of feelings that come with these drills. Each student’s experience with these drills are completely unique to them and I can’t speak on their behalf. However, I can speak about my own personal experiences during these procedures.  In every class I’ve ever been in during a hold-in place, I always feel my heart drop. The teachers handle the situation appropriately and my peers appear to not think anything of the momentary pause. I’m the opposite in this situation. I’ll try to focus on my work but honestly it is extremely difficult to focus on math problems when the fear of danger is present.  While I always knew that school shooting existed, my fear of them began last year in early December. I was so excited for the school’s Holiday Fair. My parents were both clearly stressed and I asked what was happening. They informed me that they had been notified by the school that a viral Tiktok said to “shoot every school (including elementary) nationwide on December 17th.” They went back and forth for the hours leading up to the time I actually had to leave.  After rereading the school’s email saying that we were all perfectly safe, they reluctantly decided to send me.  The middle school’s no phone policy was heavily implemented that day and honestly that just made my anxiety 20 times worse. Once I got over my initial anxiety attack, I was able to have an incredible time at the Holiday Fair.

I bring up that story for a few reasons. For starters, to show how quickly everything can change. Even when the concept is not the first thing we’re thinking of, that fear is always there. It haunts all of us in the back of our minds. After that incident and a couple other potential threats, I started fearing walking through the front doors. It had nothing to do with school itself, because I actually love  school. I was afraid to walk in the building because truthfully it felt like we were more at risk than before. Wednesday’s overheated sprinkler incident was specifically terrifying.  After being told to head back to class, 7 of my classmates and I were the only people in the classroom. The lights were flashing more rapidly and the alarm was significantly louder than before. We thought our teacher and the other half of our class were directly behind us, but after a few seconds I realized no one else was coming. I walked towards the door frame and realized that we were the only people there. The classrooms  and the hallway were completely abandoned. Once I realized this, I informed my classmates that we needed to get out now! We ran to the doors (which appeared locked) and were able to be reunited with the rest of our class and teacher. The entire time we were in the school was probably less than 2 minutes. However it was absolutely terrifying. When the doors appeared locked, I genuinely thought that there was a shooter in our school. I have never felt fear like I felt in that moment.

Everyday, we live with the fear that something might happen.

Everyday we come to school with the hope that we are safe. 

Everyday we are prepared just in case everything changes in an instant. 

Everyday we walk in the building desperately not wanting our school to be added to an ongoing list of attacked schools. 

We have grown up in a society where even our classrooms are dangerous. We have been exposed to the concept of school shootings for a lot longer than we can remember. Sadly, school shootings will define our generation.

Writing this article has made me think about this whole situation in a different light. I didn’t realize the strict hold that these events have had on our childhoods until now.  We have all experienced this to some degree. The fear that I’ve felt during the drills is nothing compared to fear felt by students across the country during an active school shooting. I can never imagine what the victims of these acts have endured.  To be completely honest, I had never realized how much anxiety I’ve experienced because of this constant threat. I’ve learned a lot about myself during the process of writing this article. For starters, my fear of school shootings will never go away because this is the world we live in. Finally I learned how much I need to share this story. Writing this article has brought up a lot of emotions for me and I’m sorry if this brought up those difficult feelings for you as well.  Honestly, this was extremely therapeutic for me. There were times I cried while writing this but truthfully, I’m proud that I’ve been able to give this story a platform.

The only way to truly end school shootings is to have stricter laws surrounding guns. Even if the school does everything right, it truthfully does not mean anything. Armed intruders can still invade and they can still brutally kill people. In the statistic shown on the right, it depicts the problem that the vast majority of school shootings have occurred in America. Other countries could not compare the amount of violent attacks that students in our nation have faced.  The first graders killed during Sandy Hook would soon be able to vote. Thousands have protested against  gun violence and school shootings. We need to continue to protest until things finally change. We understand the severity of the situation and truthfully if we take the right actions we really can stop this from continuing to happen.  The most effective way to have stricter gun control is to reinstate the ban on assault weapons. Congress needs to pass bipartisan, common sense gun legislation.Future generations shouldn’t have to grow up hiding in the corners of their classrooms and being too afraid to breathe. If we continue to speak up about this issue, we can try to ensure that future generations won’t have to inherit a world where they have to watch their classmates and teachers die.  No one should have to be constantly afraid when they go to school.  No one…..