When the Children Go Hide

Jeff and I are sitting on the top row of the first set of seats, sunken right below the main lobby and walkway at the newly renovated Legacy Arena in Birmingham. We’ve been watching the Alabama High School Basketball State Finals on this March weekend.

This Saturday afternoon we’re watching the boys and girls finals for each region. The games have been nail-biters. We’ve been amply entertained.

Until the already noisy arena becomes much noisier. But it’s not from the basketball game.

It’s from the hallway right behind us. There’s a flurry of activity.

We see the crowd gathering. We hear the teenagers yelling. We overhear rumors there’s a fight.

But then we see something very different.

Across the arena in the student sections, we see crowds of teenage spectators suddenly running frantically down the steps of the arena, climbing over the rails, to escape to the nearest exits.

And the students left behind who haven’t evacuated?

They’re hiding. We see them crouching as low as they can get under their stadium seats.

What is happening here?

And what are Jeff and I supposed to be doing???

We aren’t sure.

We don’t want to go up into the hallway. That’s where the ruckus is. We don’t want to go down into the basement. We have no idea what’s happening there either.

So we wait.

Surely the announcers will give directions soon. But they’ve either disappeared off the court or are hiding under tables courtside on the arena floor.

My heart is pounding. My thumbs are scrolling through Twitter. Sometimes it’s quicker to get news from social media than in person.

I start gathering my belongings into my clear plastic bag, the one that was inspected for illegal weapons when we entered the arena at 9:00 this morning. I want to be ready to dart out in a hurry, if we decide it’s needed.

Early reports from social media and the hype in the arena are now coming in. Some say they saw an arm in the air with a gun. Some say they heard the words, “Gun! Gun! He’s got a gun!” Some say they heard POP POP POP.

At last, an announcer returns to the arena microphone. He tells us to remain in our seats. He tells us we are safe. He tells us no shots have been fired.

The game will resume shortly.

The students crawl out from under their seats.

False alarm or not, knowing how to protect themselves in these scenarios are what these students have trained for.

The students have been taught how to respond to an active shooter situation.

I don’t know if I should be glad.

Or devastated.

We never heard for sure if shots were actually fired that afternoon in the Birmingham arena. There were no reported injuries anyway. My heart breaks for those in other places who’ve had very different outcomes in their schools, their shopping centers, their movie theaters, etc. Lord, have mercy.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

12 thoughts on “When the Children Go Hide

  1. Anita Ojeda

    Oh, how frightening! And devastating. When I was a kid, we learned what to do it n case of an earthquake or a fire. The world has changed so much since then. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

  2. Jan

    When I was a girl it was the possibility of nuclear war re: Cuban missile crisis. Every generation it seems has it’s own threatened terror…but every generation has Jesus too…we need him so….

  3. Barbara Harper

    What a frightening experience. I’m glad the students had been drilled on what to do so they could keep as safe as possible–yet I am so sad they needed that kind of knowledge and training. The way violence can break out at any moment, I get very agitated in crowds when voices raise in an angry way. It’s like a dropped match or a lightning strike in dry woods–fire can spread in a moment, literally or emotionally.

    Once at a red light, I watched someone in the next lane get out of his car and go to another car beside him and start punching the mirror. That driver couldn’t move because he was boxed in by other cars. My fear escalated–what if the guy starts trying to get into the car, what if someone pulls out a gun, what if he sees me looking and comes after me. The light turned green and everyone drove on. It happened so fast, there was no time to call 911 or start filming. But I was shaken for a long time. It’s a crazy world. We need Jesus so badly.

  4. Donna

    Oh Lisa, I can’t imagine how you felt in those moments! How very frightening. And a sad statement on our world today. Though like Jan, when I was in the first grade, it was the height of the Cuban missile crisis. We daily drilled on hiding under our desks; and to this day, some 50+ years later I remember the exact words of Mrs. King, my teacher about what would happen if a missle was fired.
    My heart aches for the smallest of children now drilled for active shooters in our schools.
    Sadly at the hospital nearby , and my hospice we have likewised drilled for active shooters, having had two school shootings nearby in recent years.

  5. Joanne Viola

    Lisa, I cannot imagine how frightening this had to be. It is amazing how students are being taught to be prepared for such emergencies. I remember as an elementary student we had bomb drills – sometimes we had to go under our desks and other times, down to the basement. Thinking about it, the drills and preparations made it less scary of a possibility. May we constantly pray for the safety of schools as they hold our most precious ones.

  6. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Lisa, I just shared your post on FB. I’m so sorry you, the kids, all there experienced this. I’m sick to death of the gun violence or threats thereof.

    That’s all I’ll say.

  7. Pam Ecrement

    Wow! What an experience that could shake anyone to their bones. It is indeed a tragedy that students have been forced to learn how to try to be safe in unsafe situations. Sadly, it is true for the whole of us and some of us more than others depending on where we live. Public transportation is riskier than we might have expected. Sometimes even being in your own home is not as safe as we might wish with lawlessness growing week by week. We are paying the price and reaping the consequences for a shift from values of morality and decency that pricked our consciences in years gone by. I cannot help but think that eliminating prayer and other things from schools that were commonplace years ago were contributing factors as well as the busy busy lives with parents and kids going in every direction and losing that home base centering. God help us to realize how our choices and lack of them and the race toward the end times scripture speaks of are all coming together more each day.

  8. Barb Hegreberg

    How frightening and comforting at the same time.

    I have had preschoolers cry the first time we do a bus evacuation drill.

    I have also aided our local police by playing a victim while they did active shooter training.

  9. Lois Flowers

    Oh Lisa, my stomach drops and my heart sinks just reading what you experienced. I’m glad the students are trained too, but it hurts to realize that such training is necessary. Just a few weeks ago there was a shooting at one of the five high schools in our city. Nobody was killed, thank God. It wasn’t my daughter’s school, but she was pretty shaken up by it.

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