Family First

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A dramatic story of a police interview with a student about his experience in a school shooting and his inner monologue and conflict over the matter. (fiction)

Submitted: September 24, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 24, 2016




Family First


As the door to the interrogation room swung shut, I shuffled across the room to the far corner and leaned against the wall. Slowly, my strength gave over to gravity and I slid down the wall and found myself curled up with my face in my hands. The lights were out, but the peace the cool darkness brought was welcome enough. The peace and quiet was jarring in comparison to the last few hours of my life, and for the few time, it allowed me the chance to stop the spinning thoughts in my mind and sort through the chaos of the yesterday’s ordeal. For the first time, I could just go back over the memories. In my my mind I retraced what had happened and thought through each and every detail. Memories flashed through my head and I squeezed my eyes shut. My brother, Luke, stuffing something into his sports bag as we rushed out of the door to the school bus. The sound of the alarm blaring, swelling to fill the hallways and classrooms. My friends and I still laughing and talking, crouching under the large teacher’s desk, unaware of the grave situation. Standing and talking with Luke in the the hallway during the alarm, even though neither of us were supposed to be there. The way he had uncomfortably shifted his weight from foot to foot and hid his bag behind his back. Looking over my shoulder I walked back to class and seeing the strange, almost sad, look he had given me. These moments flashed through my head, and in my mind the silence of the interrogation room was shattered by noises you never want to hear. Glass breaking, never ending bangs, police sirens, and screams and pleas of mercy flooded my hearing and surrounded me. Overwhelmed, I squeezed my eyes shut even tighter and wrapped my arms around my legs, squeezing hard. In the back of my mind, a nagging concern, fueled by these thoughts, grew into a conclusion that I didn’t want to admit or allow. In the moment, I swore to myself I would never let this secret be unearthed.


Suddenly, the lights of the interrogation room flickered on. My eyes flickered open, and squinting to adjust to the bright light filling the room, I looked around to see who had turned the lights on. Through half shut eyes, I saw a woman walk through the door on the opposite of the room, holding a thick file, bursting with papers. Without saying a word, her stern eyes, thin lips, and straight expression spoke for her. Her face was one that had seen all the horror and gore the world had to offer. Faint wrinkles told her age, but her eyes still had a fire light behind them. Unconsciously, my heart rate picked up and I felt my breath hold in my chest. The woman walked to the middle of the room, where a desk with two chairs was laid out. Her heels clicked with each step, hitting the concrete floor. The door finally finished its slow swing shut and closed with a thump. I felt myself release the breath I had been holding and I tentatively turned to face the woman, careful to avoid her gaze. She dropped the file on the table and it landed with a startling slap. I flinched. As she pulled the chair back from the desk and sat down, she turned to face me for the first time. She looked at me and motioned for me sit at the chair on the other side of the desk. Hesitantly, I stood up and shook my legs, stiff and cramped from sitting for who knows how long. As I walked over to the empty chair and sat down, the woman opened the haphazard file and pulled out a sheet. She looked at it briefly, before looking up at me, and then back down at the sheet.

“So, your name is… Jake Midner,” She asked, reading off of the paper, “And you are in tenth grade?” I nodded tentatively, focusing my gaze directly on the file, seeing only its manila color and content of many papers covered in scrawled writing. Looking straight at me, she continued, “My name is Detective Ward, you may call me as such. I’m leading the investigation into the shooting that occurred at your school yesterday morning. Right now I’m just going to ask you some standard questions in order to complete a witness statement for you.”


I nodded again, continuing to avoid looking at her. I lowered my head further towards my chest and hid my eyes behind the curtain of hair that fell down and covered my face. The detective took note of this and wrote something down on a pad of papers she took from the file.

“So tell me now, where were you when the shelter-in-place alarm was started yesterday morning?’, the detective asked, looking directly at me.

“Latin class…I think,” I responded, my voice still shaky and uncertain.

“Could you please elaborate or tell me anything more?”

“Class had just started when the principal announced over the PA system that he was enacting a shelter in place alarm. He said there was an armed dangerous person in the building. He must have said that it was not a drill or something like that, but I can’t really remember. It was kind of hard to understand him because all the speakers at school are really old, and anyways, half way through his announcement the power was cut off so we didn’t hear the whole thing.”

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes for a moment. The room seemed to have gotten colder. I was shivering and I couldn’t fully concentrate on responding to the detective’s question. Memories and glimpses of the scene were resurfacing and overwhelming me. Waves of stress were washing over me and pulling me under. I gulped and tried to slow my increasingly ragged breath and speeding heart.

“Mr. Midner, please, continue,” Detective Ward commanded. Her tone implied that I wouldn’t want to make her wait, so I took a deep breath before opening my eyes again and continuing my statement.

“I didn’t actually realize there was a serious threat in the building at first. No one in my class did. We’re already on the last month of classes before exams and the seniors in our school


have kind of been playing a lot of pranks on the underclassmen. They don’t exactly always have the most appropriate sense of humor a lot of us thought it was just another one of their twisted pranks or something. Our teacher, Ms. Shipp, still made us practice the safety measures though. She told some of my friends and I to hide in the corner away from the door and the windows under her big desk. She told another girl to hide in the closet at the back of our classroom and everyone else pushed their desks in front of the door to form a barricade of sorts before lining up against the wall, semi-hidden and out of sight. Then Ms. Shipp taped a large sheet of poster paper over the small glass window in the door. Before she locked the door, I asked her if I could go to the bathroom. We all thought it was all a silly, stupid, insensitive prank or something, and we had gone through and practiced all the safety measures so she let me out.”

Before I could continue, the detective interrupted me again with a wave of her hand, “So you were completely unaware there was actually a dangerous armed shooter in the building, despite the alarm? And you left the classroom?”

“Yeah. As I said, no one was taking the alarm seriously.” I retorted.

“I see. So when did realize that the alarm was real?”, She responded slightly raising her eyebrows, returning her gaze to the paper she had been writing on throughout my story.

I lowered my gaze and closed my eyes again to try and focus my memories. After a moment of thinking and searching through my confused and jumbled memories, I opened my eyes and spoke up again.

“I realized the alarm was real after I returned to the classroom. I sat down with my friends under Ms. Shipp’s desk where we were supposed to be hiding. We all were talking and laughing, actually kind of glad to be missing class. At least we were at first,” My heart rate started to race again and my hands instinctively clenched into a fist. I felt my palms start to sweat  


and I wiped them on my jeans.I paused for a moment to compose myself before continuing my statement, “After a minute or two, we heard someone walk up to the classroom across the hall, I think it was a French classroom, and trying to open the door. Ms. Shipp shushed us and we all got quiet. During all of our practice shelter-in-place alarms, we usually have a teacher go past all the classrooms and rattle the doorknobs. This time it was different. This time we could hear whoever was outside fighting against door and trying to force their way in. It sounded like they were bashing into the door, trying to knock it off its hinges,” I gulped, “The person left the door alone after a minute and walk away. We were all still a little doubtful that it was a real alarm until we heard a door further down the hallway open. I guess they had forgotten to lock the door. That's when we knew it was real. Gunshots went off, one after another, and we could hear people screaming and begging for mercy through the chaos. Some of my classmates started screaming and crying, but before they could make too much noise, other kids covered their mouths with hands to silence them,”

As I recounted that moment, I felt tears start to well in my eyes. I paused, wiped my eyes on the back of my hand and started again.

Ms. Shipp and many of the students, including me, called 911 after that. We whispered and cried to the police, telling them what was going on. The police told us to stay in the classroom and continue hiding until they got there. So that's what we did. Waiting for the police to come save us was pure torture of suspense, wondering who was safe and who had been gunned down by the maniac. We didn’t know if the shooter would come back or if we were going to be next. That was the scariest part, the not knowing, the complete cluelessness. We stayed hidden in the classroom until the police declared it safe to come out maybe a few hours later.”


“Before you returned to your classroom, did you see anything suspicious? Anything that may have given you a clue as to what was going to happen?”

My mind started spinning back into chaos again, thoughts forcing their way to the surface.

Well, maybe, I don’t know. I did see Luke, and there’s never any real reason for seniors like him to visit the sophomore classroom hallways. The senior classes are all the way in the other wing of the building… My dark doubts bubbled up, but I pushed them away to the back corners of my mind, refusing to give them another thought. I composed myself and put on my straightest poker face, then looked up to face the detective for the first time.

“Not really. The bathroomis just around the corner from the Latin classroom so I didn’t see very much. Plus, as I said the power was off so the lights were off. There was a window at the end of the hallway so there was enough light for me to get around, but it was too dark to see everything really clearly,” I responded, softly.

The detective seemed to sense my hesitation, “Just close your eyes for a minute and think. Go back through those few minutes and try to find something you missed, anything or anyone out of the ordinary.” She sat in silence, watching me, staring me down, until I closed my eyes. Sighing, I shut my eyes. Once darkness overwhelmed my sight, the questions began again.

“Did you see anyone or anything suspicious?”

Luke was kind of jumpy and he seemed a little out of it when I was talking to him. He wouldn’t look me in the eye and he kept glancing over my shoulders. And it seemed like he kept trying to find a way out of the conversation. His whole personality seemed really different, his usual confidence was gone, replaced with caution and anxiousness.

I furrowed my brow and squeezed my eyes shut closer. I let a breath out and responded,


“No,” trying to keep my voice light.

“Are you sure you didn’t see anything unusual, nothing at all out of the ordinary?”

No. Luke was carrying his sports bag even though he doesn’t have sports until after lunch. Lunch wasn’t even for another two periods.

I paused before I answered again.


“Think harder. Any details you can think of, no matter how small could be essential in solving the case, in finding the gunman.”

Luke was definitely trying to hide his bag from me. He pulled it behind his back as soon as he saw me, although he wasn’t very good at sheltering it from my view. Whenever he shifted his weight from foot to foot, which was often, the bag would swing around and I would be able to see it. The hallway was kind of dark, but I could see that there was something more angular and more solid than his gym clothes in that bag. It was pushed up against the fabric and made a vague outline. I wasn’t completely sure what it was back then, but I think I have a pretty good idea as to what it was now.

“I’m sorry, I just can’t think of anything right now. I just can’t think.”

“Based on other student witness accounts, we know that the shooter was an adolescent male. However, he was wearing a mask at the time so no one was able to identify him. Our officers believe he is a student from the school considering how efficiently he managed his way around the building, finding the hallways with the most classrooms, and how quickly he escaped and evaded law officers. The shooter would have had to have known the building pretty well. Do you have any idea now who the shooter could be?”

Again my dark thoughts pushed to the surface. I squeezed my eyes shut and covered my


face with my hands, attempting to fight the thoughts away.

You know who did this. Don’t deny it.

I don’t know, I can’t be sure.

It’s Luke. You know he did this. He’s the shooter.

No. It isn’t. It’s not him. What proof do you even have? You don’t know anything.

It’s Luke. You know it is.

It can’t be, I don’t want it to be him. He’s our brother.

It’s. Luke.


You know he’s been troubled ever since Mom and Dad split up last year. He’s always been bullied and his girlfriend just broke up with him. His therapisteven prescribed him antidepressant and antianxiety meds last month, his therapist was WORRIED about his mental health.

He’s FINE. He’s not insane or criminal, he’s just upset. He couldn’t have done it.

You know he hasn’t been taking his meds. You know those pills in the trash can are his. You know that it was a gun in his bag. And on top of all this, we haven’t seen yesterday during the alarm. You KNOW it’s him. Give it up.

It’s NOT him.

I opened my eyes and shook my head as if to rid my head of the unwanted thoughts.

“I’m sorry. I really have no clue who would do such a thing. Or how they could do it,” I responded, my voice shaky and my head lowering towards my chest once again.

“Ok, well that’s all the questions I have. And, I don’t think we can really know how anyone can do such a thing.” With that, the detective finished jotting something down in her


notes, straightened the papers she had taken out of the file, and put them back in. She stood up and walked back towards the door. As her hand touched the doorknob, she turned back to face me, “Thank you for your time, oh what was it, Mr. Midner. Have a good day, and if you remember anything, please, give us a call.”

Again, I just nodded without speaking. As the door shut behind the detective, I placed my head into my hands. I could feel my heart racing in my chest. My heart rate had been rising throughout the interview, each question adding to the feeling of my heart being ripped out of my chest.

What have I done? What has HE done? Luke, how could you?

Shaking my head silently, I closed my eyes shut again and a tear dripped down my cheek. I heard it hit the table a second later with a dull plop. Tear after tear fell and a puddle soon formed below on the table. Quickly, my tears were no longer silent and sobs heaved from my chest. Unable to express my affliction aloud, my cries consisted of only meaningless, wordless noises.

After some time, the tears ran dry and my throat grew hoarse. I opened my eyes and tore my glaze away from the desk and glanced up at the now flickering lights. The room seemed darker than it had been before, but maybe it was just my tired eyes. Looking around, I caught my reflection. There was a large mirror that spread along the wall across from me, but I knew it was just one-way glass. My eyes were puffy and red, my nose dripped, and my hair was a ruffled mess. I stood up and wiped my face on my sleeve. My shirt was probably ruined now, covered in tears and snot, but what did it matter. Nothing mattered. I pushed my chair back from the table and walked towards the door. I needed to leave the room, I just needed to get out.

I did it for Luke. I did it for Luke. I did it for Luke.


I repeated that one phrase over and over, attempting to reassure my frantic mind.

I was just protecting him. Protecting him… Remember what Mom always says: If you can’t rely on your family, who can you ever rely on?

Who can you ever rely on?


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