10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity High School finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.
10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.
10:03 a.m. The auditorium doors won't open.
10:05 a.m. Someone starts shooting.
Told from four different perspectives over the span of fifty-four harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.
12.5 minutes is the average length of a school shooting. Run if you can, hide if you need to, fight only if you must to save your life. Barricade doors to keep out the shooter. Every minute you distract the shooter allows other to get to safety. Close the door, stay silent. We will try to keep you safe.
I'm a middle school teacher. School shootings are a painful reality that we face every day. Even if it hasn't happened in our school or in our town yet our students see it on the news, they are afraid and they want to talk about it. As teachers we go through active shooter training, we plan out what we will do if it happens to us. We are painfully realistic about the fact that if it does happen, the likelihood that we all make it out alive is small. That some of us will die, that some of our students will die. We talk about what our job is as educators, that it's not just to impart knowledge, but also to protect the children that come through our doors. We know that if it came down to it we'd do what we had to to save as many of them as we can, because if it was our child in their school, we'd hope that their teachers would do the same to get our kids home safely. These are hard conversations, and they happen over and over again, and they will continue to happen so long as school shootings continue to happen.
Which brings me to this book. I was hesitant to read this book at first, I wasn't sure how this topic was going to be handled. Overall, Nijkamp did a really good job. Told over the course of almost an hour we get the perspectives of multiple players as they fill in the blanks as to who the shooter is and what his motivation is. People are scared and try to run and hide, and there are also those who step forward to try and end the shooting and save other people's lives. The strands of the story slowly come together as the main players react and make their decisions as they face the reality that their school is under attack. In the end no one is left unscathed, but there seems to be a sense that everyone left standing will eventually be okay. Because they'll have to be. In the aftermath of this sort of trauma you find a way to move forward, and Nijkamp has created a story where you know these characters will never be the same, but that they just might be okay someday.
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