This Is Not A Drill

In a stack of papers called Personal.

  • Sep
  • 28
  • 2007

No one was killed and no one was injured. That’s the good news.

As I’m reading chapter four of The Great Gatsby out loud to seventh period, the fourth time I’ve read this chapter out loud in the same day, the lights start to flicker. Eventually, they shut off completely. Students get distracted and look around to figure out what’s going on. They see it before I do. Smoke. Lots of it. “Everybody, third base!” They flood through the doors and beeline to the softball field outside the classroom. Across campus from us, an electrical transformer blows up. This is not a drill.

There is no “All clear, teachers return to your classrooms” announcement. No feeling of “How much more instruction can I get in the final minutes of class once we go back?” No one has attendance rosters with them to check off names because you don’t go back to your desk in an emergency. Students aren’t standing near their teachers. There’s no way to tell who is here and who is not, other than each teacher knowing that all of their kids left the classroom and came out to the field. Students, just get off campus and go home in the opposite direction of the flames. This is not a drill.

With loud BANG! BANG! BANG! sounds of wires whipping back and forth inside a large electrical box, flames shooting out, black and gray smoke pouring into the sky, we usher students further out onto the track. Backpacks sit inside classrooms, PE uniforms adorn some instead of regular clothing, purses wait on top of desks next to open books. Students aren’t allowed back into the classrooms. They go home as is, iPods, cell phones, and keys behind locked doors on campus.

The footage a student shot with his cell phone has been picked up by a few news outlets and even the electricians wanted to see it. It apparently gave them some worthwhile information. I’ve said it before: bring your camera phone to school.

On Thursday, we opened for an hour so students could come back to 7th period and pick things up. Roughly 20 out of 30 students showed up to my class. School was canceled that day. It’s Friday and school is canceled again. With four days to work on it, we’ll be open on Monday. Have a good weekend. This is not a drill.


1. Ben says:

[9/28/2007 - 7:50 pm]

Wow, talk about adventures in teaching! I’m glad everyone got out alright. And to think I wasn’t too embarrassed when I missed our last “over the loudspeaker” fire drill; I won’t soon take drills lightly after your story, Todd.

2. CaliforniaTeacherGuy says:

[9/29/2007 - 11:36 am]

All of us live in exciting times. Yours were more exciting than mine Friday. Glad you’re all safe.

3. Tom says:

[9/29/2007 - 6:36 pm]

Man. That’s wild. Glad it all ended up safe and everyone is ok.

4. Todd says:

[9/30/2007 - 8:19 pm]

Thanks for the well wishes, gents. Maybe this will allow aging infrastructure to be updated, while we’re there fixing things already.