Wednesday, March 28, 2018

28/31: An Alarming Interruption

There are a lot of sounds I expect to hear in a middle school:

  • Fart jokes
  • Cracking voices
  • Groans and moans at the sight of a new assignment
  • The muffled ping of a cell phone
  • High-pitched squeals
  • The thudding of feet followed by an adult's voice yelling "SLOW DOWN!"

With this lineup, you'd think I'd be prepared to hear just about anything. But today, I was absolutely not prepared for the godawful sound I heard right in the middle of my 6th hour class: the fire alarm.

The piercing, shrill scream scared all of us, me especially. I was nervous. We weren't in the classroom. Instead, we had adjourned to the library for the hour, a move that normally makes me happy, since it gives me a break from being the teacher for the day. Today, however, I cursed at our misfortune. Not only did I have to scramble to the door to familiarize myself with the fire plan, but I had to contend with the sound as well. The fire alarm is eardrum-bursting level anywhere in the building, but the library's lofted ceilings and tin roof amplified the horrible noise to a level that none of us could handle. With fingers jammed in our ears, we made our way outside to the appointed meeting spot in a somewhat-orderly fashion...only to be greeted by gray skies, muddy grass and a light mist that settled across our uncovered heads. Great.

This was no drill. No administrator in their right mind would take a bunch of middle schoolers and plunk them outside in these conditions. We huddled together, a morose motley crew of hoodies and grumpy faces. My students peppered me with questions about what was going on, and I smiled at how cute it was that they thought I actually knew any more than they did. We waited for the fire department to show up, wondering how long it would take for us to hear yet another alarm headed our way. Some optimistic students crossed their fingers that we would be sent home for the day (I let them believe). We jumped up and down. We did the Macarena (kids still know it these days). We dramatically exclaimed at our misfortune. We waited. And waited. Some of us more patiently than others. 

The fire trucks arrived. It was anticlimactic. They did not arrive with urgency, and their sirens were pitiful mews compared to the banshee scream of the fire alarm still sounding from the building. "Must not be too big of a deal," I mused aloud, wondering when we'd finally be granted access back inside. 

Just as the rain began to pick up, I saw the clump of students across the way begin to move en masse towards the building like a herd of wildebeest ambling towards shelter. We were free. As we pushed inside the building, our ears still ringing with phantom alarms, I heard one student sum up the event perfectly: "Thank God that's over."


  1. Yikes! This sounds absolutely awful! I hate fire drills under any circumstance, but on a cold, misty day, when you have to stay out there for an extended time- ICK! Your student really did sum it up perfectly!

  2. That's the worst! It is so hard to get a class to the library too, so it is always awful to lose the time. We once had a small fire right before school started for the day, during finals week, in the pouring rain, which- as we all huddled outside without our coats, because this was close enough in time to Columbine that kids were still required to leave their coats in their lockers as soon as they arrived- slowly turned to snow. Because of the smoke, the fire department could not let us back into the building for what felt like hours after the fire was out!

  3. Bah, the dreaded school fire alarm! I cringed when I read those lines, remembering those drill days when I'd either plug my ears (my school days) or not (when I worked at the Kindergarten center).