High school is normally scary by itself. All the tests, quizzes, exams, homework, and social situations all pile into one giant catastrophe. Besides the work aspect, high school was somehow one of the best moments of my lifetime. I was involved in student government, social awareness, drama club, concert band, and finally marching band. But never did I realize that being so involved in high school would force me to make a huge decision that I never wanted to make.
In May of 2019, I graduated from a small Christian high school in Alabama. The school was located in the middle of a neighborhood that was surrounded by woods (that's important to remember). Among those woods were hundreds of houses that would see bright stadium lights and hear the announcers voice every Friday night. To be completely honest, I am surprised they didn't complain. Each Friday was an exciting day at my high school. It consisted of each class trash talking to each other and trying to beat the senior class at our pep-rally. It never really worked out for them. However, Friday's also meant for the marching band to start preparing for the game the moment school got out at 3:00 p.m.
It was a regular Friday in August. Students were excited to cheer on our football team, the band was prepping to marching out into the stadium, and police were getting set up. At thirty minutes before kickoff, the marching band marched professionally to the reserved area in our stadium. Everything was normal and routine. As drum major, you have a routine of how Friday nights go. You play your fight song when the football team runs out, the halftime show, stand tunes when something good happens, and just simply provide some encouragement in the case something goes wrong. But this one particular night wasn't routine.
In the middle of the first quarter, my band director stepped away to use the restroom. And since we are a small Christian high school, it wasn't particularly a big deal. So there I was, dressed in an all-white drum major uniform, on a high platform, directing the band. No big deal. Minutes later, I see a police officer quickly approaching the drum major podium. He looked around then came up to me saying, "Is your band director around?"I responded with a no and the next thing I heard destroyed me. He said, "Don't be scared, everything is under control. But there is an active shooter less than a mile away at the local Walmart." The suspect was a 17-year-old male that somehow got possession of an automatic firearm. How in the world did a 17-year-old get their hands on an automatic firearm? However, the news gets worse. The suspect ran from police and his location was unknown. Great...So again, I was standing there dressed in all white, on a high platform, thinking of what to do. The police officer gave me a few options and said, "There are about fifteen police officers surrounding this neighborhood. In the case something happens, go into this building that is closest to you." In the midst of everything, I notice that there were now five police officers surrounding the band. The situation was getting worse.
I was an 18-year-old drum major, thinking of ways to somehow get the band in protection as quickly as possible. And no 18-year-old should have to think of ways to dodge a bullet from a 17-year-old. I was constantly looking at the dark line where the trees and the ground met NOT HOPING to see someone with a firearm. And in the case I did, immediate adrenaline would take over hoping that the band would get to cover safely. Moments later, my band director came back from the bathroom. I updated him on the situation and the tone that he carried has never scared me before. Word quickly spread and the entire student section found out about the situation. Every phone was out tuned in to the local news station hoping for some type of good information. We continued the game as normal. Stand tunes were a little shaky but still powerful. You could tell that the atmosphere was focused on the situation and not the football game.
So what happened? Did they catch the shooter? So many questions!
That entire Friday night, the police department did not catch the 17-year-old that had possession of an automatic firearm. There was a manhunt the entire night. The game ended in a victory for my high school...but nobody focused on that. Days later, they caught the suspect miles away. To say the very least, it was one scary moment in my high school career that I will never forget.