The first time I ever experienced a lockdown (that I can recall), I was sitting in my sixth grade math class.
It was approaching time to switch back to homeroom when the announcement came over the loudspeakers.
There are a group of protesters at the district office, they said. We’re asking everyone to stay in their classrooms and teachers to lock their doors until we know what is going on.
It mattered to our safety because the school district office was right next to our school, and a chain link fence was all that stood between these protesters and us.
If things got ugly.

By steve lyon from los angeles, ca, usa (Strike threat.)
[CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)
or CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons

The person on the loudspeaker didn’t say it, but it was going through everyone’s heads.
Our brains tend to go the worst case scenario in those types of situations, don’t they?

So while my math teacher tried to keep everything as normal as possible after she locked the door, my brain zoomed through all of the horrible things that could happen.
We worked on our math homework, we read, we talked.
An hour later, the all-clear came – we were safe to go back to our normal schedule.

I remember the sense of freedom as I gathered my books and my bag and went next door to my homeroom.
Captive set free, or however you want to romanticize it.
No longer a hostage.

The protesters were still at the district office at lunch hour, and when school was dismissed.
Lining up to get on the bus was unnerving, with the sea of faces on the other side of the fence seeming to stare at us.
I couldn’t look at them, so I stared straight ahead at the bus as it pulled up and the doors opened.

I didn’t know until I arrived home that afternoon what the protest was about, but I did find out.
Maybe it was a slow news day and the television stations were scrambling for something, or maybe it will always be a big deal that a protest happens on a school district’s grounds.
In our case, it was parents and students at the other school in our district protesting what they saw as the unfair dismissal of a school administrator they dearly loved.
Peacefully protesting, though – it didn’t get violent. Just loud.

What I’ve appreciated about that in the past was the way my teacher handled what was going on.
What I appreciate now, with hindsight, is how the protesters handled themselves that day.
It’s easy to forget, especially with the violence and ill-will erupting at protests in the past few years, that there are ways to object to actions people consider harmful or unjust that get the point across without drawing blood (physically and metaphorically speaking).

So I say my thanks to the protesters for keeping things as civil and peaceful as possible that day.
You taught me an invaluable lesson all those years ago.
I hope others will be able to say the same of me in the future.