Monday, June 1, 2015

Lockdown and the Cuban Revolution: The Day TCC Stood Still

Every interesting person should have one story of being detained, locked down, interrogated or something, and after today all of my students can say they suffered being locked down with me during the Cuban Revolution and survived it relatively unscathed.

This is how it happened, at least the pieces of it I'm saving for this puzzle of a story.

This morning I chose a skirt and heels because the lecture was on the Cuban Revolution and that's just too important for flats and jeans.

 I blow dried my hair, glossed my lips and was at my desk well before office hours so I could do professor things.

A student comes, we discuss her future and I give her a lucky rock and get back to work.

 I write a book review and as I hit publish another student comes in needing to understand containment.

Fine, I explain it, shut the computer down and off we go to class.

Ten minutes into lecture -- just as Batista was fleeing on 12/31/58 - I have my back to the screen but I hear a noise.

 Ugh. Probably a computer update warning.

 I don't stop talking but my students aren't looking at me, they're staring at whatever it is so I march off to find the mouse and clear the offending notice.

It says something about armed something and taking cover and don't ask me now.

 Part of me said RUN FORREST RUN and another part said "Let's act all cool and make this an adventure."  Guess which part won?

So I let my students pull their phones out for a minute because the message must have gone viral.

Texts and calls lit up student phones with warnings and admonitions and are-you-oks's

Students look worried

.In 20 years of teaching the most violence I've ever seen is two students giving each other dirty looks over a chair they'd each claimed and continually fought over.

 I'm not worried, so I shout out things like "you're stuck here so you might as well take notes! and "this is the Cuban Revolution! This is SOOO important!! Don't space out on me!"

Our classroom door rattles.

 Someone in class may have screamed, I don't know, but I do remember some papers flying up a bit.

 It was the department staff, locking our door.

We were officially in lockdown.

 Students want to know how long this will last, and so do I but I don't as because no one knows.

 It will end quickly or slowly.

It will end peacefully or violently.

 It will end, but not until it ends so I just keep going through the Bay of Pigs while students bite their lips, push back tears, stare at their phones and let little pieces of horror stories march across their brains.

I keep going, leading them (pulling them, pushing them, leaving others behind...) into and out of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Then just as class should be ending (and about 45 minutes after some of us started panicking) he Dean comes and officially says we are in lockdown but a few people can go out to the bathroom if they come right back.

Fine, OK, class ends and a few students slip out (one never comes back and we know who it was) and we fall into smaller groups with the some students staying in their seats while others moved to the chalkboard and window.

I wish I could tell you what happened in the next hour or so but now that it's over, it's a blur.

I know we took some pictures so people would know we were OK.

I know we all looked out the window at the helicopters flying in low circles above us.

I know one students was much happier and safer in the corner behind me, tucked by the closet, and so thats where I wanted her to stay.

I know students were getting info from their friends because they kept trying to tell me this person says this, this person says that, this person sees this.

I nod my head but my job is to keep them in the room and not stressing about things that are out of their control.

Seriously, either nothing will happen or something will happen.

Until something happens, enjoy the nothing, right?

I know there was dancing with and without music, and at one point when I wasn't dancing my diet coke flew out of my hands in a spectacularly surprising move and onto the ground.

 I took a picture of it and put it online so people could share the moment.

I know I almost cried when the phone rang in the classroom and stated (again) that there was a gunman on campus and that we should seek shelter.

 The class watches me listen to the message so I can't freak out.

I smile and say Thanks, thanks then try to hang up the phone and drop it on my foot.

 I'm acting all cool but this is two drops in 10 minutes, it might be personal record.

The message comes to us by word of mouth that we can leave at our own peril and my students are aching to go.

 There is no pressing danger, no obvious reason for us to surrender our freedom in exchange for security for a minute longer, so I make the announcement.

Without being told, several students buddy up so that everyone gets to their car safely.

 I take the phone away from a student and tell their mom that it's ok. Her voice relaxes an octave and I feel like a superhero.

I take two students to their cars and slip off campus safely but not before my mom calls.

She wasn't in Tallahassee or Twitter or Facebook so she asks, "How's it going?"

I tell her what happened and I don't think she heard me or maybe she wanted a different answer so she asked, "I mean the Cuban Revolution, how did lecture go?" and I laugh because I don't know what else to do.

Soon enough I'm home and getting hugs from my kids.

 Its late afternoon and they're starving so we head off to Publix where I'll be shopping while they go to Subway.

Ten minutes into shopping and my knees go weak.

 Now everything is over all the things  I didn't think and didn't feel flood into my brain. What if... and what IF and WHAT IF?

All this rolls silently and invisibly with me, bringing surges of adrenaline and something else I'm not familiar with (dread? fear? panic?)

I still get the peanut butter, the dog bones, the "right" bread and other things on the list but as I drive home from Publix and before I get home I fight off the idea that school will never be a safe place again.

 Of course school is safe.

Of course my students will be able to concentrate.

Of course we will finish our work and take the final next week.

Tomorrow is the lecture on the Vietnam War and no armed person on campus is going to hijack my students or our semester.