Code Red at Franklin Community Middle School

This morning I was about fifteen minutes into my first presentation at the library in Franklin Community Middle School when the principal came on the intercom: “Code Red. Code Red.”

Unfortunately, he wasn’t talking about Mountain Dew. I looked to the librarian, Trish Grady, for guidance. I figured it was a lockdown drill. I’ve been in those before–you crouch in a dark, locked room for five minutes until the principal calls all clear. Then I saw a policewoman sprinting past the windows outside. That’s not normally part of the drill.

I’d just finished challenging the students to break a training board with a taekwondo move called hammerfist, so one of them piped up, “Hey, we’re fine, we’ve got the taekwondo dude with us!” I decided it wasn’t the best time to explain exactly how useless my mad taekwondo skillz would be against stray bullets.

Trish told me to keep going, and I entertained my rather nervous audience while the rest of the adults locked all the doors, turned off the lights, and pulled all the blinds. Then we got word that we should move to a computer lab deeper in the building and wait for the all clear. So I wound up sitting with a roomful of middle school students in a dark room for nearly two hours. And it was wonderful!

We talked about my books, about their favorite books, about the books they were writing, about how authors get inspiration, about how I build my characters and my plots, and about a hundred other topics. I had a great time.

Finally we got a “Code Yellow,” which the marketers at Mountain Dew wisely do not use on soda cans. That meant we could move around inside the building but not leave. Not even for the planned lunchtime cook-out. So, the intrepid library and kitchen staff moved the cookout into the library (with pre-cooked hamburgers, which were actually pretty good). Then my final presentation had to be cut short, but that was no problem–I have a short version ready for just this sort of thing.

It turned out that the “Code Red” was caused by an armed robbery and shoot-out at a nearby drugstore. You can read more about it here if you wish.

I was amazed anew at the yeoman’s work our schools do in educating and protecting our students despite a society that sometimes seems stacked against them. Trish knew exactly where the flip-chart was with every conceivable disaster procedure. (Seriously, they have dozens of scenarios planned–including what to do if there’s a nearby radiation leak.) Everyone was calm, cool, and professional even though the event played havoc with what was already a bit of an abnormal day.

Thank you to all the librarians, teachers, and administrators who prepare so diligently for all kinds of crazy events that we all hope will never happen. And a special thank you to Trish Grady, whose flexibility and resourcefulness made my day at FCMS a lot of fun despite the “Code Red.” Maybe next time I visit we’ll have a Code Read and bring flashlights to read in the dark.

(If you’re interested in hosting me at your school, library, bookstore, or taekwondo dojang, there’s more information about my author visits here.)

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