The day started like any other day in my life as a parent, but it turned out to be the most terrifying day in my life.
On February 13, 2020, my daughter texted me mid-morning to say she didn’t feel well and wanted me to get her from school. I replied that I would be there shortly and took my time getting ready and leaving the house. While I was puttering around, my cell phone began to blow up with text notifications. I own a marketing agency and a blast of notifications was not an unusual occurrence so I did not rush to check my phone.
I was wrong not to be concerned, and these text messages changed my life.
The texts were from my daughter and went like this:
“Mom, I think I heard gunshots.”
“Mom, kids are running to hide! We are at lunch.”
“We were just told by teachers to get in a classroom.”
“Momma, I am scared. It’s a school shooting.’
As I write this, I am tearing up, and it’s been months since this happened. For what seemed an eternity but was only a half-hour, I was frantic. My daughter had not called me “momma” in years, and that change tore me up. The texts continued. Teachers were heroic and sheltered the kids in classrooms. Kids that were outside for lunch were hiding in bushes, the only shelter they could find. My daughter and her friends were scared and crying, trying to be quiet in a classroom. Then I received this text:
“Mom, someone just tried to open the door.”
This text sent me over the edge into a full-blown panic. I texted my daughter that I was on my way to her only to receive a message that I would not be allowed to get to her. I ran back into the house frantically, trying to find news on the television to see what was going on. I left my car running outside with the door open. I left the door to my house open. I fell on the ground screaming “no, no, no, this can’t be happening” sobbing because I thought my daughter was going to die during yet another school shooting. I called her Father at work. I was screaming and crying inconsolably. He could not understand me. He just left work and drove to my home. He knew something terrible was going on because my car was running in the driveway and my front door was standing open.
Thirty intolerably long minutes
For thirty intolerably long minutes I lived in this hell. There was no news, no social media posts – nothing. All I knew was my baby girl was scared, at school with a shooter, and someone tried to get into her classroom.
Finally, the local news station reported the shooting investigation. Authorities were on the scene. Eventually, they released the news that this was only fireworks in a stairwell. The investigation found no gun on campus.
One juvenile is now in custody and two more are being sought in connection to today’s firecracker incident at @Mainlandhigh.
Actual photos of what #DaytonaBeach officers found are posted here.
— Daytona Beach Police (@DaytonaBchPD) February 13, 2020
But for 45 prolonged minutes – it was real. During that time, the students were living a nightmare they had only read about, never believing it could happen in their school. For 45 endless minutes, I had to face that I might lose my daughter, her friends, my friend’s kids to a school shooter. For days afterward, I began reaching out to other parents whose children attended school with my daughter. We only texted each other. We could not talk on the phone; the emotion was still too strong even though, this time, it was a false alarm.
One friend did share what her son texted to her:
“Mom, this is [hidden name] my phone died, and I am using a friend’s phone. There is a shooting going on, and I am hiding in a closet. Just in case, I love you.”
Even now, as I type this article, tears are streaming down my face.
The trauma these kids in Daytona Beach, Florida, experienced was no different than if it had been a real shooting. The stress caused by this ordeal for the teachers, the parents, and the first responders was real. Many of the kids are in counseling with PTSD. An issue that will remain with them for months, if not years. My daughter, for one, hasn’t had a full night’s sleep since.
In my research since this event, I have learned that there is technology available that would have informed everyone immediately that this was not a shooter and only some firecrackers. This technology is affordable, costing less than $10 per student for most schools. In the event of a real shooter, these systems alert authorities in a matter of seconds with critical information that enables them to respond and end the threat quickly. This includes the firearm type and the location of the shooter. This information can be sent to teachers as well to better prepare them to shelter in place or exit the building safely.
I believe that every school should have the peace of mind provided by these systems, and school district leaders that don’t provide these systems should be held personally accountable. Every. Single. One.
Stephanie Casimiro is the owner of Designer Marketing Solutions, LLC, a digital marketing firm specializing in social media management, SEO friendly content writing, and analytic reporting. She is based out of Ormond Beach, Florida, with a roster of clients focusing on the technology sector.