Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The world I live in

When I was in first grade the biggest thing I had to worry about was making sure I didn't miss the bus. In fifth grade I had to move up to a different school and we were no longer in one classroom all day, but had to go from class to class. My biggest stress then was finding all of my classes. My freshman year was more of the same, but now I had to worry about the rumored initiations one might undergo by seniors. I also had to worry about my grandma that was dying of breast cancer. As high school progressed my stress ranged from my weight, to getting my driver's license, to boys I might have secretly liked, to grades, to a bad relationship with my father. At the time everything seemed so critically important and as if my life were hanging by a single tattered thread.

Now I'm a college student. I expected the various stresses that go along with this level of education, but there is one aspect of it that I didn't anticipate. Every term we have what is called an Active Shooter Drill. Whichever class you're in when it happens has its own method of dealing with this drill, but it goes a little something like this: an alarm goes off indicating that there is a lock down; lights are turned off; doors are locked and closed; people sit on the floor, huddled up, quietly hiding; we wait for the alarm to stop thus signaling us that the coast is clear. Usually when this happens I sit and ponder how fucked up it is that the world I live in has a need for a drill like this. That because someone is having a bad day or a series of bad days, they are coming to schools to kill people (I also occasionally joke with friends that, at my size, at least two of them could easily hide behind me should the shooter get through the series of locked doors between us and them).

Today was different. Today the alarm didn't stop. Today we sat huddled in a room texting furiously to family and friends. Today our hearts beat a little faster. Today was not a drill. Today there was someone on campus that meant harm. Today we sat in the dark with no information other than the fact that someone had a gun. The stories of other school shootings cross our minds and, for a moment, we feel the fear that they must have felt. At one point someone walked up to our door and tried to open it. "Of all the classrooms on all the campus," we think, "he chooses ours." He walks away and we never find out who he was. Maybe he was just someone trying to get into a room to hide. Maybe we should have let him in.

I text classmates telling them not to come to campus yet. I text my sister and let her know what's going on. I opt not to tell her I love her refusing to believe that this is serious enough for such a dramatic addition to her day. I do tell her to tell mom what's going on. Part of me does wonder if I should be doing more, saying more. What if the last thing I said was "You gotta be fucking kidding me. I'm up to my eyebrows in gradient mesh and clipping masks and you want to have another drill?" (I also wonder if the shooter is an over-stressed graphic design student and feel a sense of connection to his plight). Eventually the alarm stops. Eventually we snap out of our stupors and stand up. Eventually we walk out and go back to our classes as if nothing has happened. We find out that someone was at the bookstore threatening to commit suicide.

I learned something about myself today that bothers me greatly. I learned that no matter how dire the situation, I will still worry about my weight. Today I worried that I wasn't hidden enough because I'm too big. Today I worried that should we have to run, I'd never get away and secretly hoped that adrenaline worked miracles. Today I worried that I would, indeed, die fat. This is the world I live in.


Madame said...

Wow. There was a time that the only "drills" we had were nature-focused (tornado and trekking outside for fire drills) ... My goodness, I am so glad to hear that all are okay!!! I can only imagine the fear that you all must have encountered.

In my mind I'm always "big" first ... no matter the circumstance I'm always taking into account, my weight. I remember walking across the street heading to my p/t job on campus and I got hit buy a truck crossing the street. When I came to, all I could think about was how many people witnessed my 257lb self stretched out in the street unconscious, how many EMTs it took to lift me onto the stretcher ... oh and how many jokes I'd have to hear about whether the truck was okay after the collision :/ .. Not my injuries ... the blood, or pain ... my fat. Crazy.

Carlos said...