I was in my big meeting of the week yesterday when I got a text from my daughter, “They evacuated us. It’s not a drill.” She’d called first but since I was on a conference call I’d let her go to voicemail. Worst mother ever.
The information came in drips. Bomb scare. The schools in four North Jersey towns evacuated, including all of ours. Both my kids, although in separate schools, evacuated and told to leave all their belongings in place because someone had threatened the buildings where I leave them every day.
Although reason told me it’s far more likely that some prankster made a few phone calls, the mom in me couldn’t help but see other images flash. Schools surrounded by SWAT teams, wounded students pouring out. News stories about disgruntled kids causing unspeakable mayhem. Until my kids were safe at home, I didn’t relax.
I got the robo-call by 4:30 pm that the schools had been swept by K-9 units and FBI agents on the scene and that no credible threat had been found. I called their dad, the only other person who cares about my kids the way I do. I found myself reluctant to send them off to school today. The weather had turned colder and suddenly they seemed so much more vulnerable. I dragged my feet a bit, my eyes still a little puffy from the cry I’d had about it last night alone in my room. The world seemed more vast and menacing this morning.
As I watched my son go into his school, a guy carrying a camera and a microphone came up to my car. “CBS News. We’d like to ask you a few questions about the bomb threat.” I looked around to see who “we” was, but he was on his own. For a second my vanity squeaked, “Your eyes are puffy and you have no make-up on!” But I let him point his camera at me and ask me his questions. He walked me through how I’d found out, what information we’d been given.
Then he asked, “How did it feel to bring your kids to school today?” It’s not hard to find scared moms, I guess. “There’s a part of me that worried, of course.” I answered. I tried to end it on a positive note, but there it was, the truth. It felt good to speak it. There is nothing to keep us from feeling vulnerable sometimes, but there is naming it. And that has some power.