Mr. Smith was nervous. Things had changed. It was his first day in class packing a gun and he wasn’t sure how his third graders would react. Would they ignore the belt and holster under his jacket? Would they want to touch it, and what would he do if they did? Maybe he shouldn’t mention it to them at all and hope they don’t notice?

The bell rang, interrupting his explanation of apostrophes. An active shooter drill had been scheduled for 11:30, just before lunch. A few seconds later, the sound of simulated gunfire shot over the intercom. Twenty three eight-year-olds looked at him in alarm.

“It’s not real kids, just a drill, but remember what you were taught.”

“They’re still babies,” he thought as they obediently scurried under their desks hugging their backpacks. Some surreptitiously sucked their thumbs or snuck out a hidden toy, too babyish for a normal day, but shooter drills wouldn’t ever be normal, would they?

In his teachers’ gun training, he’d been taught to unholster his standard issue Colt 45 pistol and put himself between the hidden kids and the door. He sat on the desk closest to the door but his hands shook as he took out the gun. He breathed deeply and concentrated on his kids. “How are you doing there guys?” “Shush, Mr. Smith, we’re supposed to be quiet, remember?”

Sounds of the drill progressed down the corridor outside with much shouting and banging on doors. They all stiffened as their door was struck with a hard object and some of the kids started whimpering.

Caleb, smaller than the others and young for his age, startled and ran to Mr. Smith grabbing at his arm.

“No Caleb, don’t!” panicked Mr. Smith, but the gun jumped in his hand and discharged. The noise was overwhelming, followed by a dark silence. Mr. Smith kept his eyes closed for what seemed like a long time. He knew that once he opened them, everything might have changed.

Carolyn Sullivan is a long-time Annapolis resident, but a native Londoner. She has a public relations and marketing consultancy, PR People, and is a volunteer with the Annapolis Film Festival and Action Annapolis. This piece came out of her work in Lynn Schwartz’s fabulous writing class.

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