It only takes a spark, to get a fire going.....
We had a short week last week- Thursday and Friday off as comp. days for parent-teacher conferences. Wed. is normally shortened by an hour, so that we can have "collaborative time" with our departments.
Last Wed. was no different- I was running around during my prep like a lunatic, printing off handouts for our Thurs. field trip, running grade sheets, and forgetting that we were on a shortened schedule, so really feeling the time crunch when I looked at the clock and realized that instead of almost an hour, I had only about 15 minutes left. At about 10:05, there is an announcement over the PA, "Teachers, should the fire alarm go off, please disregard." Ok, we've all heard that one- they come in and test the alarm and it annoys, and everyone just shrugs their shoulders, business as usual. A few minutes later, surprise surprise, the fire alarm goes off. I have my prep in a classroom where my colleague teaches, so she and I looked at each other, the kids kept working. Then we noticed that people were actually leaving the building, so we decided "what the heck" and slooowly walked out the building, making my "crispy critter" jokes all the way to get the kids to hustle it out the door. We didn't hear it, but there was a second announcement that told everyone "THIS IS NOT A DRILL! EVERYONE EVACUATE THE BUILDING!"
It was a lovely fall day, overcast, the leaves have turned beautiful shades of burgundy, orange and yellow. We stood on the lawn in front of the building, chatting with teachers we don't normally get to talk to at 10:15 in the morning, chatting up former students, starting to shiver as the wind picked up. We caught the eye of one staff member who is kind of administrative-like. We asked her "Is everything ok?" and she shook her head quickly-her eyes wide.
Huh. We still continued to chat and shiver and wait. Pretty soon the fire trucks arrived- three of them, and an ambulance. Someone shouted for us to move away from the building. It was circulated around the crowd that there was indeed a fire- in the boiler room. We continued to wait. I began to think about my purse inside the building. The pretty orange leather one that contained things like my car keys, Carmex, a rosary,my cell phone, my wallet, which contained my entire life (credit cards, license, library card, Blockbuster membership and my Borders rewards card). I silently panicked thinking about having to replace those things.
The NBC affiliate showed up- they are just about a block away. They got their story- only they got it wrong, as we discovered later that day. We continued to wait and shiver.
After about 45 minutes, a whole mob of the kids (our student body is about 1600) started to move across the street- fast. I hadn't heard any directive, so I could only speculate- was there danger of an explosion? Were they revolting? Were they told to run to the nearest church and pray?
I quickly figured out that we were being shuffled over to the gym across the street that belongs to the chiropractic college. At first, I was not going to go in- feeling every inch of my height impairment. The cold front that was upon us forced me indoors. As I walked in, I thought of the Katrina victims last year- not that I was in any way near their situation. We felt kind of like refugees.
The students of the chiro. college who were working out in the gym continued working out- as if the influx of 1000+ high school students happened every day. We joked that what we really needed was for a fight to break out. Our administrators and security officers must have had the same thought, because after about 15 minutes, they got everyone to sit down. The kids got out decks of cards, they got on their phones (which sent some teachers into a frenzy), they chatted, they asked if they could leave (no.). I silently wondered if we were actually discouraging students from leaving. I mean, if they've got their own cars, why not? Oh, right, that whole liability thing where we are responsible for them during the school day.
At about 11:30, they told the kids they could go back into the building and get their stuff and go home. WE, on the other hand, had to meet for a facultuy meeting, where we were told to go grab lunch and be back at 1:35 for our "collaborative time". The fire marshall and the head of operations declared the building safe for us to be in, damn them. I guess a filter in the welding room caught a spark and was smoldering, released a bunch of smoke into the lower part of the building, then got sucked into the ventilation system and it took a while to find it. It stunk up the lower 3 floors of our building. (there are 6 floors)
This was definitely a case illustrating how sometimes the Contract works with you, other times, not so much. Had we gone home, we would only have had to make up the time later. I'll endure some toxic smokey air just to not have to come in later!
So, that's my story. A little too much excitement- I'm glad we had the next 2 days off, then the weekend. And now, as I type, all I can hear in my head is some comedian (reference, please, I can't place it) from the 80's who sang that song "Fire" (Romeo and Juliet, Samson and Delilah...) only they sang it in an Elmer Fudd voice. Let me know if you can think of who that was.