Friday, 29 March 2013

Shots in Newtown

As the sound of the first shot rang through the corridor I knew I was going to die.

The harsh noise, amplified by the resonance of the metal lockers, prompted a wave of shock and fear through my body, making my skin prickle. As I jerked my head up from the desk where I was helping Ashleigh draw a cat I knew instantly that it was the sound of a gun. In the seconds that followed the synapses in my brain were on fire and an intense stream of thought flooded through me. Who? Why? Here? Surely not?

The sound of the second shot brought me back to the present and I became acutely aware of the eyes of everyone in the class room. 21 pairs of innocent eyes of every colour, looking right at me. Eyes with no wrinkles and no worries, only pure innocence and a hint of burgeoning fear. As I looked down at Ashleighs drawing of a cat, a gorgeous purple spotty cat that could only exist within the imaginative mind of a six year old, my fear evaporated and I knew what I must do.
-      Everyone,please be very quiet, and stand absolutely still!
As I peeked out of the door into the corridor I was met by a horrific site. A hand. A very small hand was lying on the floor ten yards away. Its owner must be lying down half way out of the maths classroom, desperately reaching out into the corridor. But now it was still. The screams from the same room had reached the high pitch of primal fear, and as several more shots was fired rapidly, the first little shrieks of panic came from my own pupils. I closed the door quickly, and turned back to the room, my mind still resolute. My voice didn’t shake as I spoke to them in a calm strong voice, so unlike my own.
-      We need to hide. Now. Take out all the crafts baskets from the cupboards, and put them on the desks
In absolute silence and with urgent diligence most of the children did as I said. But little Dylan seemed paralysed by fear as he stood watching me with tears streaming down his cheeks and Rhianna sat frozen to her seat, vacantly staring into space. I walked up to Dylan, bent down in front of him.
-      You will be fine. Clear out that cupboard now.’
My sternness, so uncharacteristic of the bubbly arts teacher he was used to, must have been a sign that this was serious. Dylan looked at me, tears still streaming, nodded, wiped his nose on the sleeve of his jumper and cleared out abig basket full of scissors from the nearest cupboard. Shot after shot was fired outside, the accompanying screams of panic creeping nearer. I would not be able to keep calm much longer.
-      Getin the cupboards. Now! And no matter what you hear, keep quiet and don’t open the doors!
As the children started crawling into the cupboards, folding themselves up uncomfortably on the small shelves, the panic finally caught up with me. I ran up to my desk at the head of the room, desperate to get to my phone. My finger left wet marks of sweat on the touch screen as I dialed 911. Suddenly a bolt of panic struck me and I turned around quickly. Rhianna still sat in her seat, numb with fear, a blank look to her unfocused eyes. I ran up to her desk and grabbed her shoulder.
-      Rhianna!
I shouted,whilst shaking her vigorously. Her head lolled from side to side on her shoulders and I saw no response in her face. The first few tears started to burn in my eyes, and I felt beads of sweat on my forehead as I rushed to a cupboard and threw a pile of binders onto the floor. I ran back to Rhianna and grabbed her little lifeless body under the arms and started dragging her across the classroom floor. The shots from the maths room suddenly went quiet, and with another wave of fear I realised that the only sound I could hear was that of a pair of heavy boots on the corridor floor. He was coming.
Rhiannas limp body slipped from my hands and her head hit the floor with a horrible soft thud. I pulled her along by her foot, sickened by the undignified situation. The sound of the boots stopped.
I pushed the little girl into the cupboard and the snap of the cupboard door closing was accompanied by the creak of the unoiled door to the arts classroom opening.Very aware of the tears streaming down my cheeks I slowly turned around. A pair of blue eyes were staring at me. The depth and sorrow that these eyes held did not match the face. I was struck with intense sadness when I realised that years of darkness and pain had made the eyes of this fresh-faced youth hard and lifeless before their time.
He scanned the room, the mess of arts and cafts paraphernalia covering the desks and the floor, before turning back to me.
-    I said, my voice breaking.
-       'They’re on their way to gym class'.
The punch to my stomach absurdly seemed to happen before I registered the sound of the shot. The next thing I knew I was lying on the floor, unable to move a single muscle. A sticky warmness started to spread down my legs and up my back. I could not feel anything, only hear the speeding irregular rhythm of my heart and the echo of the one thought in my mind; he must not find them, he must not find them.

When I finally heard the door close and the sound of the boots in the corridor outside, I relaxed. The warmth seemed to spread further within me and as I walked up the forest road, my purple spotty cat jumping about in the leaves by my bare feet, I smiled.


  1. Depending on people's viewpoint, I feel this could be seen as a brave story, or a controversial story. With the shootings happening so recently, I can see both viewpoints to be honest.

    My personal view is that stories like this should be written. Your story acted as a reminder that there were incredibly brave and noble people in that school who went far beyond their duty to protect the children. It is awful to think that your story contains far too much truth in it, but it was addressed aptly.

    The opening sentence was a great hook into the story and although from that sentence I knew the ending of the story, I still enjoyed reading it. The language you used was also good, I enjoy visually descriptive language such as "folding themselves up uncomfortably on the small shelves" - instantly imaginable.

    My only question would be: how does the teacher know the shooter is a male? "He was coming." Is this the initial thought of the teacher, knowing it is likely to be a male shooter? Or is this one of these excellent double-entendre's where "he was coming" is in reference to both the shooter, but also death?

    A strong start Tee, I look forward to the next installment.

  2. Paul!
    This is EXACTLY the type of comments I was hoping for! Thank you so much for taking the time.
    It is so easy to become blind to issues like the one you describe, and put yourself in the readers shoes. How DID she know the shooter was a 'he'??!! An issue I need to work on! :)

    // Tee