Working in schools has taught me of a fear that previous to seven years ago, I hadn’t really given much in the way of thought to.
It doesn’t happen as much in Canada as it does in the States (you know what I’m talking about), but I am always acutely aware of the dangers of working in academia. It doesn’t matter that it “doesn’t happen here,” there could be a day when it does, and it’s something that is always in the back of my mind, and ingrained in the way I handle situations or view things happening in my vicinity. What a world we live in where I feel the need to constantly be on alert for one reason or another.
My office traps me. I love the space I’m creating in it for myself (I’m still personalizing it after almost six months of working in it), but I am blocked in by a large desk that wraps around me at both sides, with the door more than five feet away. The window behind me doesn’t open all of the way. I’m slim, but I don’t think I can fit through it. I wonder if the space under my desk will protect me from bullets.
The other day, the professor that sits across the hall from me had an angry parent who wanted to speak with them. Voices were never raised, and it didn’t escalate to a point where I ever truly felt that anyone was in danger, but the parent wouldn’t leave, campus security was called, and the entire time I wondered “what if.” The entire time I wondered what I should do. I opted for keeping my door open, and observing and listening to all that I could, just in case something happened so that I would be ready, so that if someone asked me for some reason at a later date what happened that I would be able to answer assuredly.
More than hour after the man was escorted off campus, and there was still a strange knot in my stomach, and lump in my throat, and a heartbeat that wouldn’t settle.
I’ve been to training sessions and meetings since I began working on this campus shortly after I moved to Victoria almost two years ago. What to do in the event of an earthquake (new to me, as it’s not something that happens on the East Coast), how to interact with students who are agitated, what to do when you feel threatened by a student, staff member, or a member of the public, what to do when a situation escalates and becomes violent.
I am glad that I’ve had this training, though I am loathe to think that it’s deemed necessary this day and age.
With the recent attacks in France, Lebanon, Egypt, and Bangladesh, the world feels a little less safe. While out with Brad and a friend the other day, wandering through parts of populated tourist spots of downtown Victoria, I couldn’t help but wonder “what if,” even further. Canada is not immune to these attacks, and it’s a wonder that it hasn’t happened in my country yet on a grander scale than it already has (let us not forget of Nathan Cirillo and the ultimate sacrifice that he made). My heart breaks for the victims in these recent attacks and their families. I can’t even put into words the sadness that I feel, but my heart physically aches.
I don’t let it consume me, but every once in a while I feel frightened of the world that I live in. When I was younger, I used to believe that we were closer to peace than we ever have been. And perhaps we are, and that is mired in what a select few would sooner do to innocent people. There is a certain amount of “alertness” that one needs to possess as a woman, so often when we “dare” to venture out alone we’re made to feel unsafe, but sometimes it all just feels like too much. I’m not immune to feeling a little bit on edge. I feel I’ve spent far too many moments of my life holding my breath, waiting for the moment to pass.
Sometimes, all I want is to breathe a little easier.
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