Editorial: What you put Englewood High students through

Journalism students react to the lockdown drill on Feb. 22 that impacted students at EHS and around the state


Photo by MChe Lee via Unsplash.

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in The Pirateer

A commotion in the hall, then just after 9:20, an announcement over the school speakers saying, “Lockdown, lights out, this is not a drill.” It was repeated twice. Within 40 seconds the school was swarming with swat team officers in full gear with long guns drawn.

We, the students in journalism, in period 1, were crammed into a small closet for close to an hour having no idea what was happening beyond the closet door.

We were two dozen out of thousands of students who were the apparent victims of an elaborate prank across the state of Colorado. But to us, it wasn’t a joke, it was terrifying, uncomfortable, nerve-wracking, and eye-opening. We hear about guns and schools a lot, but never thought it was going to be us.

Not a lot of information came out during the full lockdown as police officers swept the school, that was to be expected. Administrators, police, staff, and students were all trying to figure out what was happening in the morning hours of Feb. 22.

We later learned that a series of phone calls went out to 9-1-1, including the Englewood Police Department. The calls were different, but the one to Englewood was a male voice saying that he had a gun and was going to open fire.

Law enforcement called it “swatting,” when someone makes a false call to law enforcement, claiming an emergency situation and providing a real address for officers to respond to.

The call prompted quick and efficient law enforcement responses and caused lockdowns in what was later revealed to be alphabetical order.

  • According to CPR news and CBS Denver, the order in which calls came in was as follows:
  • Alamosa – 8:24 a.m.
  • Aspen – 8:25 a.m.
  • Aurora – 8:30 a.m.
  • Boulder – 8:33 a.m.
  • Brighton – 8:41 a.m.
  • Canon City High School – Not time confirmed
  • Denver – Just after 9:00
  • Durango – 9:16 a.m.
  • Englewood – 9:19 a.m.
  • Estes Park – 9:23 a.m.
  • Fort Morgan – 9:38 a.m.
  • Gilpin County – No time confirmed
  • Grand Junction – 10:05 a.m.
  • Lamar’s Parkview Elementary – No time confirmed
  • Littleton – 1:45 p.m.
  • Roaring Fork (Glenwood High) – No time confirmed

Final reporting determined at least 17 school districts received 9-1-1 calls during the day.

The FBI had to get involved because the calls also went to schools in other states. Police said they knew of numerous threats made to a variety of organizations but said they had no information to indicate a specific and credible threat.

However, for the students who experienced the incident—for an hour—in the closet, the feeling was real and traumatizing.

From our classroom, we saw men with rifles in the hall just outside our doors. Guns were in the school.

Here are their thoughts:

“I was one of the students in the closet. I felt panicked and slightly scared, my heart slightly pounding and my mind wandering. If that couldn’t get worse, everyone was talking about what was going on and it actually made my mental state worse than it already was. So there I stood, in that closet with all the others, trying not to make anyone notice how I had started to cry. Ms. Shotts helped me with that, she was allowing students to use her phone to text their parents about what happened. I was one of those, trying to make my message readable as I told my dad what happened. If I had my phone, I would be telling everyone I knew to make sure they were okay. If I knew what was going to happen that day, I probably would have stayed home,” said Ophelia Durgin.

“Standing in the closet, I could feel the tension of everyone around me. The feeling of panic going through everyone as we waited for news to get to us,” said Giselle Quinonez.

“I was standing when I heard Ms. Shotts say someone was armed in the hall running. Right at that moment, it was 9:19 am, and we heard that we were on lockdown. I froze and all I could hear was Ms. Shotts telling us to hurry up and go into the closet. I was in the middle of a few students, I noticed they were all panicked. I texted my friends asking them if they were alright. And once I heard they were fine I was able to calm down. I felt calm because I knew that I’d experienced something like this before and I wasn’t worried. Once it was over I felt relieved,” said Jade Coronado.

“There are several different reasons lockdowns can occur, my first thought shouldn’t be we’re in a school shooting,” said Robyn Gusek.

“I stood in the closet seeing students post jokes about the moment during the lockdown. One post said, ‘I can’t die yet I just got a new puff.’ I was pissed that the idea of a school shooting was being joked about while in the moment,” said Dylan Noll.

“I heard hard running footsteps hitting against the ground, as someone supposedly was being chased due to being ‘armed’. Someone came on the intercom around 9:19 a.m. and said these words that I thought I would never have to hear; ‘Locks Lights out of sight, lockdown, this is not a drill.’ My heart pounded against my chest hard, it felt like it was gonna come right out. I followed people into the back closet scared and nervous, the space was small and uncomfortable. The energy was fearful and draining. Being in that small closet for almost an hour was terrible. I thought that I would never have to experience that, but I did, and everyone did. ‘How can people be so ruthless?’ I asked myself. It’s upsetting to see the type of world we live in, how people have to live in fear everywhere we go because people are pathetic and heartless and chose to scare people into that state of mind. It hurts to see people acting like something so terrible is normal because of how often things like this happen,” said Serenity Griego.

“People are scared,” said Corsten Bystrom.

“I was lying in my bed scrolling on my phone when I suddenly received a panicked call from my grandparents asking if I was okay and if I needed them to pick me up from school. My initial thought was confusion as I assured them that I was safe at home. They explained to me that my younger cousin who attends the middle school had texted them about a lockdown. The moment I heard that my heart sank and my body was filled with fear for my cousin and my friends. I had later learned that everyone was safe, but I guess the lockdown made me realize that no matter where we are, we will never be truly safe. In the back of my mind I have always thought that a situation like this would never happen to us, and I think that we have become so familiar with school shootings or school shooting scares that it has become natural for us.” said Alizaya Garcia.

“People tried to stay as calm as possible but all you could hear were muffled cries. Before all of that, It was a normal day, but at 9:19 the words ‘lock, lights, out of sight’ blared over the intercom. People just started to feel a sense of panic when having the run to a small closet and having the sit there for an hour not fully knowing what is going on and just standing there in a completely silent room,” said Ethan Brown.

“People heard the intercom going off about a ‘lockdown, this is not a drill,’ everyone stayed calm and knew what to do. All those lockdown practices worked and many people were hidden away very quickly,” said Matthew Dreiling.

“I didn’t really feel surprised, it’s just the world we live in. It’s sad that we have to live in a world where this is a normal thing, everyone should be able to go to school or any other public area while feeling safe,” said Mazin Fadulelsaeed.

“We had no information. I was scared for my own life and my sister’s life. My mom heard about the lockdown and told me she almost crashed her car getting to the school because she was so worried,” said Erin Hoglund.

“It’s eye-opening to realize that people are prepared to go through something like this as if it’s normal,” said Hailey Rae Darras.

“When the initial lockdown occurred I was unsure of what was going on. I was ready to escape if I had to and I was in contact with my parents,” said Sean McKee.

We were left to ask the question, “why?” What was the reasoning behind the prank? Did you, the person or people responsible know your actions made students afraid of school, afraid of the possibility that this time, it was Englewood High School?

Finally, it was time for our room to be cleared, as everyone walked out of the closet it was clear a sense of relief washed over everyone, but you could still feel the tension in the room. Looking around you could see everything from people crying to people cracking jokes, everyone just trying to find a way to cope. But as we sat in the classroom, still locked behind the classroom doors, we still had no idea what was fully going on. Every window you looked out you saw a cop or a SWAT officer walking around gun in hand.

Our superintendent, Dr. Wendy Rubin, sent an email clearing the air, but at this point, the parking lot was already full of parents trying to get their kids. The email explained how today would go on as normal, but our absence would be excused if we chose to leave. Many did. As we waited for our parents to be let into the office to pick us up one by one, you could tell the day was not going to go back to normal. Despite everyone trying to move on, you could feel the lingering sense of fear. The hope was that whenever an escort came to bring you to your parents, it was your name being called. That took another two and a half hours.

There was a real fear that no one really knew what was going to come next, and we began to realize this fear was going to be a normal thing for us from now on. We now know, this fear is forever going to be in the back of our minds.

But this horrible “prank” affected a lot more than just the well-being of Colorado students. The teachers were forced to test how efficiently they could get their students to safety. They were under the stress of realizing for the next hour these students were their responsibility in a moment of terror. Emergency responders and law enforcement charged to the scene and this could have taken them away from emergencies that may have had an actual immediate threat. They were distracted having to deal with what was considered a “prank” to someone, while others may have been faced with life-threatening danger. Parents left homes, and workplaces quickly when they found out their kids were in lockdown, swarming the parking lot and all around the school also not fully aware of what was going on inside those doors. A lot more than just students were forced to face the reality of the world we live in today, creating a permanent sense of fear in many, unsure that something like this may happen again.

As a final thought, we wanted to say how grateful we are to the Englewood police department and our School Resource officer, Matt Creaghe. Officer Creaghe was the first to make entry into EHS. The familiar face students saw in a very scary situation. He was on the scene and inside the school protecting students within 40 seconds of the 9-1-1 call being aired. We are very grateful everyone reacted quickly and it was clear student safety was the number one thing officers had in mind. We have heard the stories of SROs with less than timely reactions in times of crisis but because of our relationship with Officer Creaghe, and his willingness to jump into action, it makes coming back to school just a bit easier.

We are sending this editorial to members of our state and federal government. It’s time for them to hear the student’s voices and time to take action and work on legislation to protect students.