On January 25th, 2024 a phone call was made to the Knoxville Police Department stating there was an active shooter at Halls Middle School. I work at the high school and we were immediately placed on a hard lockdown, which means that one has to either hide their students in a closet (if you are lucky) or a corner not visible by windows or doors.
My 25 students ran into my small closet while I made sure my door was locked and all the shades to my windows were pulled down. I was officially living every parent’s and teacher’s nightmare.
We sat and waited, and very little information was given to teachers. When the initial lockdown was called, teachers knew nothing and that is no fault of our administration as they too weren’t sure what was happening. Police officers and first responders from several different agencies arrived to the schools in full force. They were prepared for an active shooter. As we were hiding in the closet, my students were receiving information from their siblings, parents, and unfortunately Facebook. About 2-3 minutes into the lockdown, we found out that they were searching for an active shooter. My heart sank. I was truly living in a nightmare. I was there to protect 25 high school students who were terrified. I watched as they frantically typed on their cell phones telling their parents and friends that they loved them not knowing what the next minutes held. I was doing my best to stay strong.
I told them I would protect them, but I also had something else important to protect: I was 8 months pregnant.
Did you notice I used the term “was?” Shortly after they determined there was no active shooter, the lockdown was lifted. About 30 minutes later, I started having contractions. I did all the things they tell you to do: I drank water, spent time deep breathing, and I propped my feet up, but by 6pm, my contractions weren’t going away. I knew I had to make the trip to the hospital.
Once in triage, I was given medication to stop the contractions and a dose of steroids to help mature the baby’s lungs as I was only 34 weeks pregnant. They officially diagnosed me with preterm labor. I had initially planned a scheduled c-section due to medical complications when I had my son a few years ago, so at 1am, the doctor told me If I wanted a c-section, we had to proceed that night. At that point, I had to make one of the hardest decisions with only a few minutes to think and discuss with my husband. If I agreed to a regular birth, every hour my daughter stayed in was better for her. I knew what I had to do; the best decision was for my daughter to be given every opportunity to grow even if it was only a few more hours. That didn’t stop my heart from breaking because that wasn’t the plan.
As the night progressed, a NICU doctor came to speak with us about expectations once I delivered. We talked about oxygen support, blood sugar checks every two hours, a tube down her nose to feed her, IV lines in her body, and the worst part: I wouldn’t be able to take her home until she was healthy. I would have to leave the hospital without my baby.
All I could think was that my situation wasn’t fair.
Three days before the lockdown, I had a doctor’s appointment with an ultrasound. My daughter was growing perfectly and I was having a completely normal and healthy pregnancy. As I reflected on this, I cried and cried and cried as I felt like my whole world was falling apart. As the night progressed into early morning, my contractions stopped, but I was dilated to 6 cm. I spent the next 10 days in the hospital away from my son which was one of the hardest parts of the experience.
The following Friday, I delivered a healthy premature little girl.
While I am so blessed and fortunate to have a healthy little girl, I am still grieving. I am grieving the special date with my husband we didn’t get to have. I am grieving the last few weeks of alone time I was going to have with my son. I am grieving the trip I had planned with my family as our last outing as a family of three.