When I dream that I’m being attacked (it happens), I can’t get a holler out of my throat. I squeak. This is terrifying. No one can help me if they can’t hear me. I always wake up shaking with fear.

So I was pleased to learn that in times of crisis, I will scream. I was embarrassed, yes, but I’m trying to see the positive here.

My screaming occurred during an active shooter scenario training. The Augusta Police Department provided the program to Augusta School Department educational staff on one of our teacher workshop days.

Note: I am glad to live and work in this city. We have a smart, dedicated and proactive police force. This important to know in these scary times.

This training is designed to help educators prepare for what we hope never happens in our schools — a shooting. First, we discussed the basics of responding to violence. If you have the chance to run, you should; at the very least, a moving target is harder to hit. Hiding is the next option. If all else fails, fight back by throwing things. Even if you can’t take a shooter down, chances are good that you can disrupt his train of thought, and interrupt the carnage.

I can talk about this scary subject dispassionately because I am an anxious person who is soothed by working out awful scenarios in advance. “If X happens, I will do Y.” Maybe, maybe not, but still, it’s something.


I’m currently extremely anxious about the possibility of a school shooting in my community. Actually, I’ve been worried for years. After Sandy Hook, I started every day by locking my office door. It could stay open, but I needed to be able to slam it shut at a millisecond’s notice.

Parkland has made me aware that we won’t see this horrid cycle end unless we do something to change the system. Meanwhile, I want to be prepared.

The police will tell you that every situation is different. That school shootings happen quickly. People never really know how they’re going to react when faced with violence. We can only do our best.

Before we started our actual training, we had to be frisked. Believe it or not, in our gun-crazy society, some people bring weapons to active-shooter scenario trainings. We were also each issued a Darth Vader-like helmet for protection.

The scenarios were all acted out by police officers who played both the law and the perps. We were in a classroom when “gunfire” erupted. As I understood it, the ammunition was cartridges filled with colored powder, shot from guns that only accommodated this sort of cartridge.

I was sitting next to a colleague; at the sound of shots, we hit the floor under our desks. My friend thought she had gotten hurt. She hadn’t, but the spent cartridges were only about a foot away from us. Whoa.


As I got up, a young police officer asked me if I was OK. I thought maybe, given my age, he was afraid I was going to have a heart attack. But then one of our security guards said, “Liz, you screamed!”

“I did not,” I said, haughtily.

“Oh, I heard you.”

Well, these trainings can be very emotional. I’d done one a couple of years ago. I was out in the hallway when the response team approached, weapons drawn, walking slowly, as a massed presence.

I giggled. It was nerves, of course. The lead officer said, from behind his mask, “We shoot people who laugh.” Yeah, that shut me up.

Given this previous performance, it was entirely possible I had screamed. But I didn’t have time to think about that because we were onto another scenario.


For our third “action,” we heard we might be told to leave the room. Hmm. Was that going to be good advice or a ruse? I imagined running out into the hall only to be “gunned down.”

Sure enough, we soon heard gunfire down the hall. A face — maybe two — appeared around the door. “Run, run!”

I sprinted toward the door. Some people weren’t moving. I darted around them. I went into the hall. A barrier prevented us from turning right. I joined a line of people hunkering against the wall. I found myself pressing the shoulders of the person in front of me — go, go. And then, just to my left, pop-pop.

I screamed. I heard myself that time. The shooter was down. I apologized to the person in front of me, but she didn’t care. We were just glad this was make-believe.

Liz Soares welcomes e-mail at [email protected]

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