Sunday, February 12, 2012

So Here's the Drill

I was astonished to learn recently that there are three types of emergency drills practiced in the high school. Three of them! That’s two more than I ever needed to know when I grew up.

Perhaps, some of you practiced the nuclear attack drills in addition to the fire drills. For some reason, my school system didn’t find it necessary. Maybe it was because Mr. Yamamoto, our Japanese school superintendent, threw caution to the wind and hated Americans.

I always thought the fire drills we practiced were not even necessary. I mean when was the last time you heard about a school going up in a ball of fire? Most schools are made of cinder blocks, brick and glass. Materials, not so combustible.

The fire drills did have a benefit, though. It got me out of class and near Mary Alice O’Connor, the prettiest girl in the 7th grade – long, blonde hair and an early developer. Because of Mary Alice, I had always hoped there would be a real fire. I had even thought of setting one on her behalf, because I imagined myself rescuing her from some raging inferno and being her hero.

She would be alone in the library, the fire’s epicenter - because books are the only things that would burn in a school. She would be trapped in the young adult fiction section, falling unconscious due to smoke inhalation. I would dash in, clawing through the burning books that impeded her exit. Wildly throwing to the side Anne of Green Gables, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, My Friend Flicka. I would grab her, just under her heaving chest, and drag her limp body past the non-fiction section, the reference books, the audio books on cassette and out the front door to safety where I would resuscitate her with an impassioned mouth-to-mouth.


But, of course, there was never a fire.  And I’m quite sure Mary Alice, captain of the school’s cheerleading squad, never set foot in a library.

But for you lucky ones who practiced for nuclear Armageddon, I can only imagine the post apocalyptical stories you could weave.  How I wish I could’ve practiced the Duck and Cover drill. I can only imagine how many more lives I could imagine saving.

Duck and cover was the ingenious method of personal protection the US Government taught to generations of school children. It was supposed to protect them in the event of an unexpected nuclear attack, which, they were told, could come at any time without warning.  So thank you, US Government for instilling fear and paranoia at such an early age. Now you know why the 60s and 70s were filled with drugs.

The drill was brilliant. If a giant, blinding flash occurred, you had to stop what you were doing and get on the ground under some cover—such as a table, or near a wall. I remember an old black & white Civil Defense movie where a family picnics on a blanket. The flash goes off, they fling the food into the air and throw the blanket over their heads. The narrator then announces boldly that they have achieved the best protection against the bomb.

I mean, our Government developed the atomic bomb and that was the best thing they could come up with to protect us? But alas, this drill no longer exists.

So back to the three drills, which are practiced today and no doubt were designed by another Government employee.

There’s, of course, the fire drill. And according to my kids, not much has changed. The bell goes off and you walk outside the building – because we all know how flammable a school can be. And you stand there, usually in the cold, until they tell you to go back inside.

Then there’s the bomb evacuation drill. It’s pretty much the same as the fire drill except now you’re supposed to walk a little further away from the school, so if the bomb goes off you won’t be near the flying cinder blocks, brick and glass.

I would think the bomber, who is set on mass destruction, would figure out that he should plant the bomb not in the school but outside, perhaps in the parking lot where everyone gathers.

And third, there’s the shooter in the school drill. So sad our kids after to practice this one. But here the kids are told to huddle in the corner of their classroom, and hope the shooter doesn’t see them when he walks by looking through the window. 

As if it wasn’t already hard enough for the deranged shooter to hunt kids down one-by-one, now we make it easier for him by assembling all the targets in one spot in the corner of the room.

And if the shooter does walk in, the teacher, who has a union contract and hasn’t received a raise in 3 years is supposed to run at the shooter, flailing her arms and screaming in hopes of disarming the perpetrator.

I told my kids that if there’s any huddling make sure they’re the ones closest to the wall. I don’t care if you have to yank kids out of the way, get to that wall and make sure there’s a bunch of fat kids on the outside.

My son said he wouldn't be in the huddle. “I’m jumping out the window," he said. Our building is only 2-stories high and saving myself.”

“What about saving the girl?,” I asked him.

He just looked at me. “Dad, I’m jumping.”

I guess that’s good a time to be self-centered. But me, I’m just a hopeless romantic when it comes to disasters. And that’s my drill.