November 15 wasn’t a “hoax” to us

SHS’s Journalism class weighs in on the Nov. 15 swatting attack

SANFORD, Maine – Seven days have passed since Sanford High School was the first of nearly a dozen schools targeted by “Swatting”, a criminal harassment tactic of deceiving emergency services into sending police and/or emergency service response teams to unsuspecting locations. 

News coverage across the state refers to the calls from that day as a hoax. And while ultimately, it is now clear there was not a credible threat, it felt all too real to those connected to, or nearby, the Sanford community.

Tuesday’s event was not a hoax. It was a swatting attack and we were the first target. To us, it was real. To us, our lives were in danger. That morning, after the chilling intercom announcement, teachers and students barricaded our classrooms. We threw desks, shelves and filing cabinets in front of doors and interior windows. We tore books off the shelves as means of protection. We texted our loved ones as we huddled in hiding places throughout the school. 

How can we call that a hoax?

Our Sanford community continues to recover from this day when many felt fear, hopelessness and loss. We ask for empathy as we do our best each day to find our way back to “normalcy” (yet another “new normal” added to our collection of unusual events to occur during our teen years).

We understand that everyone reacts differently in life-and-death situations and that some students, as well as teachers and staff, were more affected than others. We also want to validate that, even if a classmate or teacher of ours wasn’t here that day, they still share their own experience of trauma. Be kind and patient with each other as we continue to move forward.

As we move forward and process this, we want to thank the many people who helped that day.

Thank you to the first responders – police, emergency medical services, fire rescue, and many others – for taking the call with utmost professionalism and swiftness. For coming to our rescue before we even knew that we were possibly in danger. For protecting us and continuing to take the matter seriously even after we had more information on the call. 

Our School Resource Officer, Paul Goldsmith, led with decisiveness as unfamiliar officers and SWAT teams filled our halls to clear us of danger. We also thank him for his diligence in preparing those in our school for this type of event beforehand, should it ever breach our walls. Because that day, it did.

We also want to validate and highlight the importance of premade plans. Because our school and first responders take these matters seriously, all involved were able to act fast and efficiently. Being impeded while attempting these plans can put more people in danger, for example, the parents walking into the woods (some even rumored to be armed) to avoid the police barricade were putting themselves, police officers, and kids in danger. Parents who aren’t trained in these high-stakes situations shouldn’t be attempting to do a professional’s job. We trust these professionals and ask that you do the same. We thank them for continually putting our lives before theirs.

We voice our gratitude to Ledgemere bus drivers and the surrounding towns, schools and businesses who sent transportation to get us safely away from our school and into the arms of our family members. Thank you to the hundreds, maybe thousands, of community members who voiced, hoped and prayed for our safety. 

Finally, we want to thank our administrators, who stayed in these halls unarmed and unprotected, going to each and every door until we were all safely evacuated. We thank our teachers and staff for protecting us in ways they should never have to in a school. For hugging us, reassuring us, and helping us in any way we needed. For staying calm and even when you were just as scared as we were. For protecting us like your own children, some of which were elsewhere in the building, and for the continuous support since that day. 

We understand the difficulty in tracking down the person who made these calls, but we do hope this person or group is found and held responsible. We hope justice is brought upon those who seek to invent chaos and fear.

We are not broken. Our community will continue to come together and thrive in times of need. We are Spartan Strong.

Photo Source: Darlene Breton

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