I ONCE participated in an active shooter simulation in school and I can tell you Uvalde elementary teacher Arnulfo Reyes is right: no amount of training prepares a teacher for a gunman storming a school.
In the simulation I participated in we knew there were gunmen in the school. In my classroom I had about ten students, a parent and two friendly strangers whom I met seated in my classroom when I entered. They said they were sent to protect us. I locked the door and gave children their instructions: turn tables upside down, get behind them as shields and never look up.
Everyone had a role to play in the simulation and no one knew other people's roles. I had an agitated student who panicked and kept running to an adjacent, empty classroom. Try as I might I couldn't calm her down. When she finally ran out of the other classroom, I hurried across to lock the door. A few seconds later I returned and walked right into the gunman. He was one of the guys supposedly there for our protection. I felt like I swallowed my heart - even though I knew it was a toy gun.
I told the children, 'Everything is going to be fine.' I tried to talk the gunman into letting the students go. I could engage him in some talk, but backed off whenever he became agitated.
By now other students were running down the hall and screaming. We all knew they were playing their roles, still, it was unnerving. They pounded on doors and begged to enter classrooms. As teachers, our role is to protect the students already in the classroom so we can't open the door.
A student kept inching towards the door; the gunman and his friend argued. I tried to diffuse the situation by pleading with the gunman's friend to sit down. He didn't. The gunman finally shot him in the shoulder with all the horror a toy gun can muster. The children screamed, and now I had an injured person to take care of too.
I willed myself to be calm and kept talking. Sometimes I blanked out completely, like I had been transported to another place. Gathering my wits I found ways to assure the children. A smile, a nod, a thumb's up when the children poked their heads to the side of their tables.
Two hours passed. We heard police searching rooms. (Real police participated in this simulation.) Several times police did a sweep of the hall. The gunman warned me not to call out to the police. Eventually, I coughed. The police did not respond.
By now we were all edgy and tired from the long simulation. Finally, the police found us and a real police hostage negotiator took over.
The gunman decided to let one child go. Much to my horror, he insisted that I go too. When he allowed the police to crack the door for us to leave, I calmly said, 'I don't want to leave the children.'
Agitated, the gunman repeated, 'I said to go.'
The student who got the chance to leave wrung her hands and looked at me with pleading eyes. She wouldn't sit down. She was now the most endangered child.
I could see the police at the door. The children, still barricaded behi