Thursday, January 21, 2016

All of this is True [except for the editorial comments in brackets, which may be hyperbole]

As I sat at my desk on Tuesday, in the corner of our living room that is my office on the days when I am not traveling for work, I heard an escalating cacophony of sirens up and down Beaver Street.  My curiosity piqued, I went to the most reliable source for breaking news that I know of, the Twitters.  My Tweep, @mattredsoxfan2, let me know that the fire department was responding to a forklift that drove into a gas main on Clematis (or something.)  That was when a WPD cruiser screamed down the Bumpy Road and I knew that something was up at the Fitz.  That was confirmed a few Tweets and Facebook posts later when the call came from the WPS Superintendent's office called to say that there was a bomb threat at the Fitzgerald School and our kids were being evacuated to our evacuation location (more about that in a moment.) And then my phone started exploding with texts, Tweets, posts, calls [hyperbole alert: it did not actually explode] from friends and other parents.

I pulled on my coat, hat, ski gloves, and boots and headed there.  I may, in fact, have gone screaming down the bumpy road myself.  On the two minute drive, I remember feeling oddly relieved that it was "just" a bomb threat and not an "active shooter."

I got to the evacuation site, which is where the kids go for fire drills, and [God help me] "active shooter drills".  The location was announced in the Reverse 911 notification, which went to all WPS parents.  I identified the location in a Facebook post because there was a whole lot of confusion and misinformation and I wanted to try to be factual:
Bomb threat at Fitz. Police on site. Kids evacuated to St. Jude's and will be bused back if/when all clear given.

I know that the Facebook and its so-called 'privacy' settings are a joke and that anyone, really, could see the not-so-secret hiding place to which the kids were taken.  I also know that locations are kept confidential in large part because of the risk of a parent or relative who has been denied custody of or contact with a child (often because of domestic violence, child abuse, custody battles, divorce, or similar) would come in contact with the child.  I know, from ALICE training, and my obsession with school shootings, that the shooters in these cases want to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible and then, typically, commit suicide (or "suicide by cop"); that is, the mass shooters aren't going to stalk kids being evacuated.  Also, in the case of the truly cowardly, spineless loser who sat in his Mom's basement and put together automated calls about a bomb threat and sent it to more than 10 schools on Tuesday, that kind of guy isn't going to have the cajones or sophistication to identify the evacuation plan of each school, get the school evacuated, and then plant an actual bomb at the evacuation site.  This is Loserville, not Mission:Impossible.  Finally, long before I was posting about evacuation sites, the principal of the Fitzgerald, Jennifer Santillo, had called 911 and there were about a gazillion cops at the Fitz and at the evacuation location [hyperbole alert.]  

What do you think, Gentle Reader?  And how many 'evacuation sites' are available that 550 kids, all ages 5-10, could walk to in 18* weather?  I think of some of our elementary schools that are in an even more residential area than the Fitz: where are you going to take them? 

So, back to Tuesday: I get to the Site and find concerned and (understandably) anxious parents queuing to get their kids.  Because I am obnoxious and overbearing, I pushed my way to the front and asked Mrs. Santillo how I could help and went out in front of the Site to help direct parents (much to the relief of two teachers who had not come to school dressed to stand outside in frigid weather for an hour.)  The kids, BTW, were well behaved, excited, and, from the sound of it, happy.

In my new station, I directed parents to the queue and then, after being told by a Waltham police officer that the kids would be taken by bus to the McDevitt Middle School, I directed the parents to go there for their kids.  Another officer, who was responding to about a bazillion directions and was probably pulled to the Site from where he should have been actually doing his job, came out and told parents to go to the Fitzgerald.  No, I said, the McDevitt.  He looked confused and then concurred and I hope that no one actually went to the Fitz, because those people wouldn't have gotten anywhere near it, as all access was closed off.

So, I'm telling my friends and neighbors and parents I don't know that their kids are safe, that they cannot go into the Site to get their kids because, in order to ensure the safety of the kids, they were being transported by bus to the McDevitt.  I watched the kids board the buses in an orderly way, telling them that their brains were too big for the Fitz, so they were being taken to Middle School.  I watched the last bus pull away and heard Mrs. Santillo say something about the Kennedy School, because there was a fire drill at the McDevitt.  Who does a fire drill in the middle of January?  I checked the Facebook, where there was information about a bomb threat now at the McDevitt.

Actually, the McDevitt Middle School decided to burst into flame [hyperbole alert: there was reported smoke in the elevator mechanical room] just as the buses full of Fitz kids were heading there.  The buses were rerouted to the Kennedy Middle School [this, btw, would have been a diversionary tactic even the US Special Forces would have been proud of!  Spontaneous combustion at the evacuation site to cover up the ACTUAL SECRET SQUIRREL evacuation site!]  

Eventually, still unable to feel my feet [no hyperbole there], I arrived at the Kennedy and assigned myself to another job to assist with the processing of the rest of the kids, who were now in the auditorium.  Meanwhile, my middle schooler was walking, coatless, back to the McDevitt after the all-clear was given there.  When I finally dismissed my third grader, he was disappointed because the movie had just started (Shrek) and they were about to be served lunch (grilled cheese and bacon on Texas toast whatisbetterthanthatnothing.)

Fact: the principal, assistant principal, staff, and teachers at the Fitzgerald ROCK and did EXACTLY what they were supposed to do and there was not a second that I didn't think my kids were safe.

Fact: Assistant Superintendent, Paul Maiorano, did an excellent job of Mission Control.

Fact: The Waltham PD and Waltham Fire were fantastic and did exactly what they were supposed to do (and then some.)

Fact: I am so relieved that my friends who I told to go to the McDevitt are still speaking to me.

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