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Scary Words From A Five-Year-Old

I had high hopes for 2022 that life would be better. I was certain the vaccine would tamp down the COVID-19 pandemic and life might take a turn toward sunnier days.

But I soon learned that the pandemic pales in comparison to the world our young people are living day-to-day. Let me explain.

A casual conversation with our 5-year-old grandson recently stopped me in my tracks. He is fascinated with the local firehouse near his school, and I asked if he had fire drills at his elementary school.

I knew he would tell me all about it and which fire trucks would come to his school for a real alarm.

He answered with excitement in his eyes as he told me about having to leave the classroom when the fire alarm rings, and then going outside quietly. Then, without hesitation, he told me about their other safety drills.

His eyes got wider as he explained that if a stranger or “bad man” comes into the school, the teacher would lock the classroom door and move desks in front of the door.

Then he said he would hide under his teacher’s desk.

But that was not all.

He continued with all the seriousness of a judge. He said the students were told to throw rocks and other things at the “bad guy” if he came into their classroom.

I nearly stopped breathing as he demonstrated how he would throw such a rock.

Looking into the baby blue eyes of this young child, I turned away so he could not see the tears welling up in my own eyes.

I was so sad and angry at the same time.

I had no words to offer that would reassure this innocent little boy that he would always be safe in his classroom.

My heart was pounding as I reached to hug him.

He went right back to playing as if his words had not crumpled my heart into a puddle. However, the whole experience left me feeling defeated before the first month of this year ended. Don’t we have enough worries about childhood injuries, disease and accidents?

The idea of bad guys in schools has always been in the back of my mind. I’m not naive or blind to such happenings. Yet hearing the words from someone so small and dear to me was just too much.

As parents, I believe we erect walls within our minds to keep at bay the worst thoughts about harm to our kids.

It’s how we cope when in the face of the daily news that is fraught with disasters and violence.

The recent incident in an Ohio County school that involved a 6-year-old boy who left the building unnoticed for nearly an hour brings to mind the need to not only keep the bad guys out, but also the innocent, vulnerable youngsters in. Please.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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