“District officials were alerted early today that on Saturday Snapchat alerted the FBI that a threat had been made against Lakewood High students,” an e-mail informs me on a Monday morning.

The Catholic high school down the street was evacuated for a similar threat the previous Friday. I had blown it off as probably a kid pulling an ill-advised practical joke. It was Friday the thirteenth after all.

“The FBI immediately contacted the Lakewood Police Department.”

My Apple watch tells me my resting heart rate is normal. Low. Athletic even. The watch must be broken, because my heartbeat is a wounded, fragile thing—a frantic squirrel in a car’s high beams. I open the ECG app, hold my finger in the right place. Wait thirty seconds for it to register. It also informs me that my heartrate is totally normal.

“The Police traced the IP address from which the threat came to a Lakewood residence.”

It is my ex-husband’s day to have the kids. He is the one to tell them. “They seem okay,” he reports. Of course they are okay. They completed ALICE training last week, as they do at least once a year. Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. The kids assume the email is proof that the system works. They do not yet know how often we are let down by people in power.

“The Police went to the home and arrested an adult former student, who remains in custody eliminating the threat of violence.”

Adult. I assume male. I assume white.

Not a kid.

Not a kid.

Was he alone? Did he have friends?

Did you catch them all?

Did you catch them all?

“I want to thank the Lakewood Police Department for their outstanding work.”

I have a tab open on my computer for Orzo Soup, which my son wants to make when he returns to my house. I’ve already printed it but can’t make myself close the tab. It feels ominous. An open tab is a promise of meals to come.

“Parents and students, this is an example of how critical it is that if you see or hear something, you say something.”

I check the clock. The morning bell will have rung at the high school.

I text my son a funny meme of a dog. I don’t want to put my fear into him via text. I wonder if he’ll check his phone before class. He normally doesn’t. Besides, what’s the point of a meme anyway? I didn’t even write, “love, Mama” at the end of it. Why didn’t I write love, Mama at the end of it? What if it’s the last message he gets from me?

I know that my kids know I love them. They don’t need a typed out message to make them feel loved. It is only for my guilt because they are at their father’s house, because I send them to school, because I chose this school in particular. I was the one who moved, who changed their permanent address. Had I remained married, we would all be under one roof, the children attending a school with no active shooter threats. I had been so sure that I was doing the right thing.

“We must all work together to keep our school community safe.”

Work together my ass. I consider strapping a handgun on my thirteen-year-old’s thigh, like in the movies. It could work if he wore sweatpants. But in the end, I don’t think he’d pull the trigger on another human being. It’s not his nature.

My kids have told me about how they are supposed to throw things at an assailant. School books. Pencils. Whatever they have. I wonder if I can buy a grenade on eBay.

For the record, I am against arming students and teachers. But that morning I understand why some people want to do it.

I text a friend, and another friend, and another. They caught the guy, they tell me. It’s over. They seem to think it is no big deal. They don’t worry about friends and sleeper cells and how evil does not exist in a vacuum.

I want, more than anything, for them to be right.

My Apple watch bings. The notification reads, Take a moment to breathe.

Lara Lillibridge is the author of Mama, Mama, Only Mama (Skyhorse, 2019) and Girlish: Growing Up in a Lesbian Home (Skyhorse, 2018) and co-editor of the anthology Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Invisibility (Cynren Press, 2019). Lillibridge was the 2019 recipient of Hippocampus Magazine’s Literary Citizenship Award and is currently serving as a mentor for AWP’s Writer to Writer program. Find her online at LaraLillibridge.com or say hello on Twitter.

Photo by Mike McKniff