“Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?”
-Stevie Nicks (Landslide)
It seems my neighbors have become hyper vigilant about community safety. On Tuesday, a community member was driving home and thought he saw a man wearing body armor and carrying a gun case. So he called 911, and posted it on Facebook where others reported similar sightings, and therefore also encouraged to call 911. The original caller never could have imagined the chain of events that followed.
Two nearby schools went into lockdown just as students were leaving school and police swarmed the area. A helicopter could be seen and heard overhead. Anyone with a police scanner heard that the police were searching for a male suspect with a mask, white shirt, and a gun. The area included our 100+ acre nature center senior housing, park district building, and park. Our favorite park district teacher got a call from a co-worker about the information from the police scanner. She was alone in a three story building and ended up hiding in a locked room till I convinced her to use the park district line to call the police to ask for an escort to lock up the building with her and get her to her car.
Meanwhile, I called a neighbor who lives across from the park to see if he had heard anything. His daughter and nanny were at the park. So he did what any concerned parent would do, and ran to the park and cleared it out by yelling that a gunman was on the property. Other concerned parents called additional neighborhood schools which at this point had already dismissed their students and those playgrounds were also cleared out.
I even got a call from my parents because there was a quick breaking news story on the police search…yeah mom I know I’m less than a mile from a possible gunman but don’t worry the police will get him…
I then get a text from the park district teacher that said “Yea they legit gave up and assumed it was a prank call because they didn’t find anyone”…I’m sorry what?!? People were on lockdown, mothers running from the park clutching their children, and the cops gave up because they couldn’t find the guy?
Nothing else has been said on the news, the alderman’s office and local police station both said it was a false alarm. The mommy gossip says the police found the guy and it was just a weight belt and gym bag. Regardless, I have to wonder at what point do we cross the line from vigilant citizen to simply crazy fear mongers. Have we reached a point where our worst suspicions of people COULD be true so we better report it just to be sure? Meanwhile, the 911 callers are patting themselves on the back, and countless people are terrified by the reality that yes, it can happen in our neighborhood too.
My daughter came home from school yesterday and said something surprising. They have a school wide peace walk to show solidarity with Orlando and to let our community know that they want peace not violence. Her teacher said “there was a man who didn’t like people who were different so he killed them, and we want peace not hate”. In my head I immediately thought of a million ways I would have preferred her teacher explain this…I thought about sending a letter to her teacher and principal about why I thought that conversation was wrong, but then I remembered I was hearing this from a 6 year old with no context of the conversation. So instead of sending a letter condemning, I say thank you. None of us want to have this conversation because it makes us sad and uncomfortable. We want to believe that everyone holds themselves to the same moral code that we do but they do not.
So here is what I told my daughter:
“You know how in the movie Mary Poppins the mom is a suffragette? That was because there was a time that women couldn’t vote because men didn’t think women were smart enough to pick the president. There was a group of women, called Suffragette’s, who thought that wasn’t fair. So they got together and demanded that things change, and because enough of them came together they made change happen and women proved they were smart enough to do everything men can do (I may have added that just 96 short years later we may actually have a woman for president). So when your class is doing your peace walk I want you to think about how if enough people could come together we can make change happen.”
Oh and there are no monsters under your bed…sweet dreams…