TROY, Mo.—In a cramped, carpeted amphitheater in the basement of Troy Buchanan High School, 69 students are waiting to die.
“You’ll know when it pops off,” says Robert Bowen, the school’s campus police officer. “If you get engaged with one of the shooters, you’ll know it.”
“When you get shot, you need to close your fingers and keep ‘em in,” adds Tammy Kozinski, the drama teacher. “When the bad guy and the police come through, they’ll step all over you, and who will be saying they’re sorry?”
“Nobody!” the students cry in unison.
This isn’t a bizarre, premeditated mass murder or some twisted sacrifice led by a student cult. These are the 20 minutes preceding an active shooter drill, the 13th one Missouri’s Lincoln County school district has staged in the past year.
All but 69 students have gone home for the day on early dismissal. These volunteer victims, mostly culled from the school’s drama class, are outfitted in fake-bloody bullet wounds, still wet and dripping down their foreheads, necks and chests. Bowen tells them what to expect: They’ll see “bad guys with AR-15s” shooting blanks during a simulated “passing period”—the moments when one class ends and the other begins. PVC pipes will be dropped on the floor to approximate IEDs. Crystal Lanham, a baby-faced freshman with long, gently-crimped brown hair, receives the dubious honor of being chosen as one of the gunmen’s hostages. She’s thrilled.
“I just really wanna get shot,” she jokes. “Is that weird?”
In the wake of mass shootings from Columbine to Sandy Hook to many in between, schools have devised new and creative ways to prepare for tragedy. Most have adapted some form of the standard lockdown drill, but some districts have gone further, with programs teaching kids self-defense, proposals to train teachers with firearms—and full-scale drills like the one that’s about to happen in Troy, a town about an hour northwest of St. Louis.
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