Had it not been a drill, I would have been shot on Friday.

As it was, I nearly had a heart attack.

I was looking for a few answers to some questions for a story in today’s paper when I visited the SoBoCo school district’s administration office on Friday morning.

Bruce Wallace

Bruce Wallace

I could not find anyone in the offices. As it was a teacher’s work day, the hallways and classrooms were deserted.

I was walking out the door when Middle School Principal Kevin Kiley’s voice came over the hallway speakers: “This is a drill, this is a drill. We have active shooters in the building, teachers you should evacuate or lock your doors…..there are three men near the library moving towards the gym.”

I heard, ‘This is a drill,’ but the stress in Kiley’s voice told me something else. Sure, it was a drill. But there was obviously some reality to this drill. I was in the Primary School a few years ago during an active shooter drill, but thought I would walk down towards the Middle School office and check out the outcome of the drill.

I heard Kiley’s voice again as he was providing a play-by-play of the movements of the “bad guys” while watching them, barricaded in his office, through the school’s cameras. Kiley sounded pretty stressed. This was no play acting as he attempted to provide information to teachers as Boone County Sheriff’s Department deputies, acting as the bad guys, fired off several booming fake rounds.

“This is a drill,” Kiley said, “we have active shooters in the building near the gym, now they’re coming down the hallway by Mr. Mertzluff’s room, that’s it – keep coming this way guys, the police are waiting for you by the office.”

Kiley, and other administrators have been trained to inform faculty and staff where the ‘bad guys’ are, but at the same time, provide information which may or may not be true to the shooters.

As I walked into the Middle School main hallway from the west door, the place was empty, so I waited near a row of lockers, tucked away at a classroom door.

The “bad guys” appeared near the office and started my way.

“This is a drill,” Kiley said again, “Active shooters are looking in the gym and are now headed down the hallway, away from the office.”

Yeah, they were headed right towards me… and seemed a little surprised to see an old guy pointing a camera at them. However, two of the deputies recognized me and one raised his hand towards me – I couldn’t tell if he was waving “Hello” or pointing the rubber pistol he was carrying at me as if to say, “Bang, you’re dead.”

My life didn’t pass before my eyes – this was a drill, but my heart did jump just a bit.

“You bet it’s stressful,” said SoBoCo School Resource Officer Trevor Fowler. “Anytime we are talking about active shooters, whether a drill or a discussion or whatever, it is stressful – but that is why we do the training for these situations, so faculty and staff know what to do and how to help protect themselves and their students.”

Teachers I have talked to who went through the drill tell me that their hearts leap every time they hear that first fake shot. And again each time the shotgun fires off another fake round.

It is a very realistic drill, with announcements, gunfire and your “fight or flee” endorphins jumping around like popcorn in the microwave. For most, the stress level is elevated in ways we don’t typically experience.

We hope and pray that Southern Boone Schools will never have to go through the real thing. But active simulations, including another one coming up in early November in which SoBoCo will be a part of a county-wide drill, prepare for “what if….?” By practicing, we know how to react if “what if?” ever comes to our community.

By Bruce Wallace