You don’t realize you’re on edge until a klaxon sounds and you look at your colleague’s face and see your wigged-out-ness reflected in their eyes.
Short story: I grew up in Texas. I have been teaching in Texas for my entire career (more than 15 years, oh my!) The idea of a gun doesn’t really faze me; neither does the reality of a gun. I have held and fired pistols of various kinds and sizes, hunting rifles, shotguns, black powder guns, BB guns, and semi- and fully automatic weapons. Guns in the woods, guns at the military shooting range, guns at your friend’s house, guns in the truck, guns in the dark. I am by no means a marksman, and neither do I own a gun—for no other reason than I’ve never really needed to. When the Texas Legislature opened up public college campuses to concealed carry license-holders, I didn’t find myself quaking in terror at the notion that a student might have a gun because frankly, I wouldn’t have been surprised that kids in Stephenville or Abilene, TX were packing even before that time. No, I don’t want guns on campus. But pragmatically, guns have been on campus.
Today, I teach our university’s technical and professional writing service course, which is always populated in part by criminal justice majors—both students who haven’t yet entered the workforce and working or retired officers seeking a degree for reprofessionalization. It would be absolutely stupid for me to think that there’s not a registered, concealed handgun in my class any day of the week. And the thought doesn’t bother me; it doesn’t factor into my interactions with students—or I don’t feel like it does. Neither does it make me feel safer than colleagues teaching elsewhere. The fact of guns is for me simply that: a fact. Guns are.
But between the increasing and sustained volume of the school shooting conversation (another one this morning!) and the news about package bombs in Austin, where my uncle and cousin live, and Schertz, the little town East of San Antonio on I-35 where my grandparents lived and we spent so many, many visits growing up, I guess I really am secretly a bit wigged out. I didn’t learn that until this morning, in the middle of a conversation in my office on campus with Sarah, when the fire alarm (which I’d never heard before) went off in the building and the accompanying announcement was cut off. Those few—maybe five?—seconds after the sounds stopped and before the next sounds began, as we waited, not sure what—if anything—was going on. Reading each other’s wide eyes waiting for pops or bursts or something. And then another klaxon and an announcement that all was well. Do not evacuate the building. Ourbad. We’re sorry the alarm went off.
Unannounced tests of the fire alarm are fine, I’m not complaining. But the nervous chuckle and thank goodness after the announcement stopped and we realized we weren’t under attach which is something I’d never stopped to think about before really seriously. That moment made me realize maybe I am on edge. Just a little.