I never thought I would find myself in an active shooting situation, having to “run, hide, fight”. Before experiencing it, I believed I knew what to do in this kind of situation – barricade the door, grab something to defend myself, and do whatever I had to do to survive. But when it happened, every inch of my survival instinct was plagued with shock and panic. My first thought was to check if everyone I knew and cared about was okay and to let them know I was okay too. Once I confirmed their safety, I started to quickly move things to barricade myself in and keep the shooter out. But then I started to worry about making too much noise and whether the shooter was still in the building with me. I tried to be as silent as possible, but that made me clumsy and I was afraid of accidentally dropping something that might alert the shooter to my presence.
I played the waiting game, listening intently to hear how close the shooter was to me, whether they had been caught, and whether I could hear police sirens or gunshots. Perhaps because of this experience, I realized everyone responds in a different way.
You could become the type of person who constantly made escape plans for every room and building I entered creating backup plans for the backup plans because I never knew which direction an encounter could go.
You could also be the comforting type who helped others stay calm and not panic, making sure nobody made any drastic moves.
Or, the person keeping up with all the information that was circulating – real or fake – and sending messages to people to keep them informed about the situation.
Regardless of who you may think you are now, the reality is that anything could happen. Even the strongest person, physically, mentally, and emotionally, could be terrified. The quiet ones could be creating and figuring out the best plans for “run, hide, fight,” and might know the quickest and safest way to get off campus.
Once the shooter was caught, I thought I could finally breathe again and relax. However, that was not the case. I had been in autopilot or fight or flight mode for the past few hours, and my guard was still up. I talked with others about how some things did not add up. The calls of the shots fired were too spread out for it to be only one person involved. I knew how long it would take to get from one side of the campus to the other, and no one person could do it in such a short amount of time on foot. Although law enforcement said there was only one shooter, everyone caught in the situation believed there was more than one. I was left with the feeling that it might not be the end of it, and that someone might come back to finish what the first shooter had started.
At this point, I began to process what had happened and started to feel like a victim. I had to accept that fact even if I did not want to because I would now be living with survivor's guilt. I never thought I would be caught in an active shooting situation. This experience made me realize that no one should have to go through this, especially not children. We should be safe at school, whether it is preschool or college. We should not have to fear for our lives, but that is exactly what happened last night.
Now, I stay up until the early morning because I cannot sleep. I reflect on the decisions I made and the things I realized during the shooting. I realize that I never wanted to live by the “run, hide, fight” rule, but I am forced to live that way now.