When my son is away at college, we have a robust texting relationship. I usually only receive phone calls from him after he finds out his mid-term grades—because his tears of joy cannot be expressed with an emoji, but require a sincere call to Mom. I am grateful for these ongoing conversations via text or phone because when I hear from him, I know he is safe and good and being the college guy he is.
Last spring, however, I received a startling text from him explaining that a bomb threat was posted online and addressed to the campus. The school would be on alert, increased police would be present, and the threat would supposedly be carried out on later that afternoon. My usual pleasure in hearing his voice was clouded and flummoxed as he explained the situation, smartly calling me after I received this astonishing text.
Should I be so surprised?
Sandy Hook, Colombine, Virginia Tech, Orlando, conceal and carry, politicians arguing for more restrictions and for less restrictions flashed in my mind as I realized my boy, my boy, was 19 years old and out of state, and there isn’t a damn thing I can do to protect him other than tell him to skip class, get off campus, lock himself in his house, and tell him I love him. Which he sort of did, along with chuckling at my requests that were more like demands.
I called him every day following that scary text for several days. Although parents received emails that the school and area was safe, I wanted to hear him say everything is fine. No news is good news.
In the spring of 2016, there were bomb threats at Tufts University, The University of Miami, Seattle Pacific University, Ohio State University, and Purdue University—to name a few! All of these schools had emergency protocols in place which were available online. But ultimately, I have to accept that I have absolutely no control. What good am I to him if I freak out? Would that make him freak out? Or worse, not tell me if it happened again for fear that I’d freak out again?
When my kids were little, I did not lose it over stitches, scratches, or blood, and believe me, with boys, you get plenty of all three. It wasn’t because I was some heartless parent made of steel. It was my need to keep them from getting hysterical. In fearful moments (even my own), I tried steadfast to remain calm for their benefit.
At this point in our lives, I can only hope he would make responsible decisions in an emergency situation, and I can only know that I did my best to teach him how to handle a crisis. He is an independent, young adult. That being said, we discussed a “protocol” for any future school emergency. It is not a genius, complex plan by any means. It is all about communication. The plan is to notify Mom, stay indoors and off-campus, and did I mention notify Mom?
After the instance at my son’s school, I met a friend for coffee and she received a text from her daughter at a different campus describing the same thing. Coincidence? Doubtful. Was some unhinged person going to seek violence across her daughter’s campus? Nothing happened. My friend’s daughter texted her and told her she was fine.
As the new school year begins, we have our plan in place in the advent of an emergency. Honestly, I just hope for a gun-free, safe campus for him and every student on every playground and every campus.