Just a taste of school shooting fear was too much for me

Solomon Gustavo staff writer

North High School was put on lockdown Jan. 10, following a tip, and then a cyber threat about students with handguns — see the story on page 6. The handgun from the first threat was found to be replica, and the person who posted the cyber threat was found and questioned by law enforcement. 

I was in the school briefly that same morning, visiting with Polars boys basketball coach Damian Johnson for a story that’s also on page 8.

I had a wonderful time, checking in at the front desk to pleasant and welcoming staff — not always a given at schools — and having a nice conversation with Johnson about young people’s potential, getting kids to college, and basketball. 

Following Johnson out of his office to the trophy case for a picture, students looked up and were happy to see his tall, wiry frame looping toward them, greeting his passing with a casual “What’s up Mr. Johnson?” or “Hi Mr. Johnson.”

Moving with the effortless glide of a world-class athlete and the sure step of a good natured mentor, the he would say “Hi” and their name — you know, in that respectful and trusting voice that makes kids hold their heads a bit higher.


Just sadness

I left with a skip, encouraged by the future of a blossoming basketball program and new leader for a generation of North students, reminiscing about my own mid-class hangs and saying “What’s up?” to the cool faculty back in high school.

I certainly was not thinking about a person appearing around one of the wide high school hallway corners on my way out, holding a gun.

Hearing the news of the North lockdown through an email from another Lillie News staffer, my first thought was more of a chilling feeling — I was just there. I can hardly imagine what students and staff, there all the time and next week, and many more weeks, thought and felt.

I went to AMC Theaters somewhat recently and saw a movie in one of the smaller theaters that seats maybe 70 or 100 people. Before the movie was an AMC message urging people to be aware of the exits and to stay calm if something should happen. 

It wasn’t just a quick little thing, it was a 30-second PSA getting us in the mindset to prepare for the worst. Now, enjoy the movie. And oh, yeah; don’t be a silly jerk and silence your phone! I didn’t relax until a quarter of the way into the show.

We shouldn’t have to toughen ourselves to venture out into a world in which shooting mayhem could break out at any moment. 

They say reality TV stars forget about the cameras within 72 hours — it’s hard to believe, but, being there all the time, students and school faculty probably just forget about school shooting paranoia until scares — which seem more routine — actually happen, like the one last week. 

But they shouldn’t have to. No prescriptions here, just sadness for the young people, and the adults who help them, for being scared. 


–Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815.

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