Not a usual Fri­day

Port au Choix stu­dent hud­dled un­der a desk dur­ing Col­lege of North At­lantic lock­down

Northern Pen - - Editorial - Ni­cholas Mercer

An early start to their week­end was not what stu­dents at the Col­lege of the North At­lantic cam­pus on Prince Philip Drive in St. John’s had on their minds Fri­day morn­ing.

As fate would have it, that is ex­actly what they got whether they liked or not.

Just be­fore 10 a.m., the school was placed in lock­down af­ter a so­cial me­dia threat was made to the school and po­lice ar­rived on the scene and took com­mand of the sit­u­a­tion.

That’s not ex­actly how you want to get out of class on a Fri­day af­ter­noon.

I’d pre­fer to see a sick pro­fes­sor or just sim­ply skip the class rather than have the feel­ing you’re in phys­i­cal dan­ger.

It was the sec­ond time in a week a school in the prov­ince was placed on lock­down. Last week, nearby Prince of Wales Col­le­giate was also placed un­der the con­di­tion af­ter a bear spray at­tack.

On any other Fri­day, col­lege stu­dent Stephanie Gaslard would have been on the other side of the build­ing with the rest of her Com­mu­nity Recre­ation Lead­er­ship class­mates study­ing up.

This Fri­day was dif­fer­ent. Her classes were can­celled for the day. She didn’t have to go in.

Look­ing to take ad­van­tage of the ex­tra time, the 37-year-old Port au Choix na­tive was get­ting some ad­di­tional class work fin­ished and had a meet­ing with her aca­demic ad­vi­sor.

She and three other stu­dents were in the guid­ance of­fice when word came that the school was be­ing placed in lock­down.

Think­ing it was a joke at first — this is New­found­land where things like this don’t often hap­pen — it was a cou­ple of min­utes be­fore Gaslard was ush­ered into a room in­side the of­fice and hid un­der a desk with the lights off.

Hud­dled in the dark by her­self, she turned off the ringer on her cel­lu­lar phone for fear some­one would call her and waited. She made a Face­book post with the idea of let­ting her mother know she was safe.

As it hap­pens, her mother Shirley wasn’t the only thing on her mind. Her thoughts also turned to her chil­dren in class at schools in the cap­i­tal city.

While no shout­ing or loud noises could be heard echo­ing through the empty hall­ways, times were still tense.

The lock­down lasted less than an hour, but it felt like much longer for those in­volved.

“If any­one would’ve knocked on the door, I might’ve had a stroke,” said Gaslard. “Scary was not the word. It was sur­real.”

Like the rest of us, it wasn’t some­thing Gaslard had ex­pected to ex­pe­ri­ence go­ing to school in this prov­ince. She had seen im­ages of a school lock­down on tele­vi­sion and in news clips from far-away places.

I feel for Gaslard. I’ve never been in a lock­down sit­u­a­tion and go­ing through school when I was younger, it was never some­thing we even heard about.

We prac­tised fire drills and had a school walk­out once, but never had to per­fect get­ting un­der a desk to evade a po­ten­tial threat.

Even­tu­ally, word came that the lock­out was over and that classes had been can­celled for the rest of the day.

The Royal New­found­land Con­stab­u­lary de­ter­mined there was no risk to staff, stu­dents or the cam­pus it­self and lifted the lock­down.

Re­mov­ing her­self from be­neath the desk, Gaslard en­tered the now-crowded hall­ways of the cam­pus and moved a brisk walk to­wards the near­est exit.

There were stu­dents run­ning to get off the premises.

As she left through the main en­trance, just one thought pushed her.

“All I wanted to do was get out of the build­ing and go pick up my chil­dren,” she said.

Stephanie Gaslard

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