Six years ago yesterday we woke up to rain. In Africa, rain that’s heavier than a light mist, means the cessation of outside activity. Rain, six years ago yesterday, meant the war had to take a time-out. Six years ago yesterday the school director’s wife called “my” dorm and asked me to keep an unmoving face, go to my apartment, get the director’s GPS I’d borrowed earlier in the week to plan a geo-caching activity for my geography class, and take it to their house. Six years ago Dan, our school director, promised Denise, the new widow, he wouldn’t leave without getting her husband’s body from the morgue in town and burying him. Six years ago yesterday, Dan’s wife was creating a survival pack for Dan in case he had to stay behind to fulfill his promise when we left.
Six years ago yesterday we got to wear jeans to church. Six years ago yesterday that was a REALLY big deal. Six years ago yesterday as we were starting to clean up the dining hall from our lunch when we were told to run to the dorms. Six years ago yesterday we went into lock down within a few minutes of returning to the dorm. Six years ago yesterday we heard some gunfire really close to us. Six years ago yesterday I sat at the end of the hallway, nearest the outside door, nearest the wall any intruders would have to come over and through. Six years ago I wondered what it would be like to put myself between the high school girls sitting next to me and the possible intruders. Six years ago yesterday we missed the call telling us lock down was over and wondered why there was a second alarm to go into lockdown when we were already there.
Six years ago yesterday we finally got out of lockdown and had 20 minutes to get ready for Dave’s memorial service. Six years ago yesterday I was supposed to take inventory of the junior class commissary during those 20 minutes. (I was their class sponsor.) Six years ago yesterday we had a very long but good and healing memorial service for Dave. Six years ago yesterday the Crisis Management Team would come into the service, do their part, and leave. Six years ago yesterday they knew the school was mostly surrounded by troops. I didn’t learn that till after we back in America. Six years ago yesterday some shelling started towards the end of the memorial service. Six years ago yesterday the shelling sounded far enough away and intermittent enough not to get anyone too uptight.
Six years ago today I awoke to quiet. Six years ago today after a discussion with the principal and director and the other members of the school cabinet we decided to resume school as best as we could six years ago tomorrow. Six years ago today my student teacher and I spent the afternoon in my classroom trying to figure out how to draw parallels between what we knew was going on with the war around us and the American Revolutionary War that we were discussing in our AP US History class. Six years ago today we came up with some pretty amazing lesson plans. Six years ago today we got permission to be at school in the evening to take advantage of the generator’s electricity for making creating documents and making copies. Six years ago last week our power had been cut at some point but not our communications. Six years ago we used the powerful school generators to keep the ceiling fans running at night, to refill the water tower, and to keep the refrigerators and freezers functioning.
Six years ago today I ate dinner in the dining hall with everyone else on campus. Six years ago today I finished my dinner and sat around waiting for the All Staff meeting that was supposed to take place after dinner. Six years ago today dusk fell and things grew dark without electricity. Six years ago today the generator came on at 6:32 and then the lights came on. Six years ago today the shooting started at 6:33.
Six years ago today Dan, the director, stood up, said very firmly, “They are not on this campus!” and ran out the door. Six years ago today he was followed by a number of the men in the dining hall. Six years ago today the rest of us went into lock down mode. We sat with our backs to the walls around the perimeter of the room. Six years ago today the gunfire was so loud and so close I thought “they” were hunting us. Six years ago today someone decided we needed to get the tables over our heads. Six years ago today I lay under a table in the dining hall my arms linked with two former students who were now staff. Six years ago today I watched the tracer bullets fly by the window in both directions, but mostly from East to West. Six years ago today we listened and prayed as two moms under the tables used the ubiquitous walkie talkies to locate their preschoolers. “Where’s Ian? Where’s Nathan?” was the panicked mantra six years ago today. Six years ago today some junior high girls hanging out in the plaza pulled Ian and Nathan into the girls’ bathroom at the gym when the shooting started. Six years ago today we all breathed a little easier when they were found.
Six years ago today when the bullets weren’t flying as quickly we somehow moved around underneath the tables. (The actual moving and why we moved is foggy to me.) Six years ago today I wound up under a different table with some of the seniors from my AP Lit and Comp class who were “finishing their coffee” when the shooting started. Six years later I still think they were trying to figure out what the All Staff meeting was going to be about. Six years ago today I took refuge under the table with these seniors and discussed how Jesus might view what was going on around through the lens of C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. Six years ago today the big question was if it was with the pity of heaven or not. (You’ll have to read it.)
Six years ago today the Rebels and the Government both used us as their shield. Six years ago today one soldier (from which side, I’m not sure) took one step on campus to throw a grenade. Six years ago today our gaurd who saw him said it was like the soldier hit a brick wall and was forced backwards. Six years ago today time stood still and then advanced slowly as the bullets flew.
Six years ago today we ran back to the dorms to be reunited with the students in our charge. Six years ago today we did some soothing, and some praying, and tried to answer some questions that were ours as well. Six years ago today we knew there would be no school six years ago tomorrow and we knew that we’d leave the campus when we could. Six years ago today we had no idea when that would be.
photo courtesy of Shmulik Goldberg