When a man with two guns was spotted on a Northampton, Massachusetts, middle school campus, the police responded perfectly. No one was hurt. Best-case scenario, right?
My appointments that afternoon were mostly teens. So I got to witness this "best-case scenario" through their eyes. And it was a disaster. Most days, we talk about parents or romance, loneliness, anxiety, we adjust medications. And we put away our phones.
But this was different; my 2:30 patient’s phone wouldn’t stop buzzing.
“Okay,” I said, “take it out of your backpack.”
It was a living thing, buzzing and beeping. My patient wanted to read the texts aloud to me. That’s how I heard about the lockdown.
These kids have all done lockdown drills. They’ve hunched under desks, behind barricades, in a dark, silent heap. They've planned their escape routes. They've imagined last notes to their moms.
Not one of my patients that afternoon came from the school where the "non-shooting" occurred. But they were all living it drawn to the drama, alerting and consoling each other by phone.
I can’t relay the private nature of what any one kid had to say but, let me tell you, even though they weren’t actually there, they were laser-focused on these events. They cried, they got mad, they made excellent bad jokes. Only one didn’t bring it up at all.
I asked an 18-year-old to turn off their phone.
“I can’t,” they said. And that’s exactly it. They can’t turn it off. We can’t turn it off.
We’re all in lockdown, held hostage by this horrifying, ridiculous, unacceptable crisis. It’s our nation alone that subjects citizens, teachers, parents, and children to such madness.
Our first responders are living on adrenaline, our teachers are heartsick and scared, our kids are completely on edge. Those from more dangerous neighborhoods are on high alert 24/7/365. We know what that does to the developing brain. It isn’t good. We don’t have to take a bullet to suffer trauma.
Our children have the right not to live in fear. Though glued to their phones, they're doing important work. They're taking care of each other, because apparently we won't. Aren't we supposed to be the grown-ups?
Shoshana Marchand is a psychiatric nurse practitioner in Northampton, Massachusetts.