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Life in Lockdown

With lockdowns becoming increasingly more common around the country, the chilling reality of these incidents has recently hit close to home for many members of the community.
McKenna Harper
Lockdowns are becoming increasingly common country-wide.

With lockdowns becoming increasingly more common around the country, the chilling reality of these incidents has recently hit close to home for many members of the community. As the lockdown unfolded on May 16, it was a stark reminder of this new norm—one filled with fear and uncertainty. Whether beyond the school walls or locked in a classroom with strangers, each person had their own unique personal experience that would shape their perspective on safety and security in our school environment. 

The shared stories of that day revealed the diverse range of emotions and actions taken by individuals, showcasing the resilience and vulnerability that coexist within our school during such traumatic events. From startled students and teachers frantically texting their loved ones to administrators coordinating with law enforcement, the lockdown impacted everyone.

In the case of students, there were many different experiences as some found themselves outside enjoying lunch and others inside the school walls. However, wherever one was, it is no secret that distress and worry were common themes circling the minds of many students. Junior Alistair Benjo shared what he went through during the lockdown, in which he was locked in a cafeteria storage room with other students: “It was a stressful experience. We had no clue what was happening, so combined with rumors, it made it that much more stressful.” Sophomore Julia Ordonez was one of the many students who were taking the AP Spanish Language and Culture exam when the lockdown struck. “Lockdown was really bad for me. I was bored the entire time and I had no idea what was happening, because I didn’t have my phone with me since I [was] taking the AP test,” she said. 

While students’ well-being is a core focus for all faculty in a stressful situation, the teacher experience is often overlooked. Social studies teacher Mr. Gilmore shared his experience during the lockdown. “It was very surreal, I guess,” he said, adding, “You know, we’ve had drills for years […] But this one, this one seemed a little bit more serious.” Mr. Gilmore explained that staff members had a text chain going to stay updated on the latest reports. He emphasized that teachers tried to “fill [the students] in as best [they] could as [they] were getting information from admin and from other sources to try to keep them calm and in the loop as well.” Mr. Lopilato, social studies teacher and B-CC parent, spoke about his experience as well, as he was hosting a lunchtime club meeting when the lockdown was initiated. He explained, “I had about 12 students in my room that were here for a club meeting and the greatest group of students I could hope to be in lockdown with. But it didn’t make it any less intense.” Mr. Lopilato highlighted the support and comfort students offered each other in this time of worry and uncertainty. “They were supportive. They looked after each other. They made sure nobody was anxious,” he shared.

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In fact, students sheltering in Mr. Lopilato’s classroom came together to create an exhibit about their experience. What began as a gun violence exhibit at American University to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Columbine shooting was developed by these students to integrate this new, very relevant experience into the exhibit. “They took the parts of the Columbine exhibit and just completely transformed it to include images and thoughts and prayers and text messages and inner thinkings about what happened during their experience during this latest lockdown,” explained Mr. Lopilato. 

Mr. Lopilato and many other parents felt very shaken by the lockdown. PTSA President and parent Laurie Bolt shared, “This incident was drastically different from what I’ve experienced in the three years my daughter has been at B-CC.” She emphasized the safety and communication efforts that will continue to be strived for. “Communication and student and staff support after incidents occur are some of the biggest opportunities. […] The PTSA Safety Committee is committed to pursuing those opportunities with Dr. Mooney and the central office through the summer and into next school year,” said Bolt. 

When it comes to such a traumatic event, most people are aware of the overall experiences, but not what is happening behind the scenes: the series of intense communication among administrators and law enforcement, the detailed monitoring of cameras, the commitment to send an update out every 20 minutes, and more. Principal Dr. Mooney shared what he went through during the lockdown, saying, “During the lockdown I was actually in this office, in my office, because this becomes the command center for the response team… on this side it goes so quickly, because there are so many decisions that are being made all the time.” Amid the lockdown, the response team collaborated closely with law enforcement, making quick decisions and employing effective communication to uphold a safe environment. Besides that, Dr. Mooney and other administrators had to put up with the tough job of communicating with the individual behind the threat, making sure to keep the person on the line by asking them a series of predetermined questions. “They kept adding more and more [to] what they were saying—you know, like I have students who are helping me, I have this —and finally when they said I’m hiding in a bathroom, and I have a gun with me, and I’m ready to go shoot people, that was the decision to move into a lockdown,” he said. It’s essential to acknowledge the significant role administrators play in ensuring the well-being of individuals during challenging circumstances. “That is always what my goal is: for everyone to be safe and for everyone to leave here just like they came in the morning,” concluded Dr. Mooney.

Alongside administrators, the security team works tirelessly during situations of threatened student safety. Mr. Gray, the Security Team Leader, explained, “MCPS sets up classes for the whole security system. It goes for each school—high schools, middle schools, elementary schools. We go through training every year so we’re prepared.” He emphasized the importance of practicing all types of drills to always be equipped for any threat we may face in the school environment. “It’s the world we live in today. [Drills] are needed. We have to be prepared for anything and everything. We [the security team] care for each and every one of you,” Mr. Gray said. He leaves students with the message, “If you see something, say something.”

Undoubtedly, everyone went through the lockdown in their own way, and acknowledging these personal experiences is vital for promoting a sense of community. “What we need is strength in community right now. Because we go through this together, but we don’t always get a chance to process it together,” said Mr. Lopilato. 

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About the Contributor
Rachel Cynkin
Rachel Cynkin, Staff Reporter
Rachel Cynkin, a BCC Junior, is excited to join The Tattler this year and help deliver important, reliable news to our school community. In her free time, she loves to listen to music, bake, and spend time with friends.

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