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Sophie Didn’t Forget

posted Wednesday September 26th, 2018




Not long after Ray dropped Sophie off at school yesterday morning, I got a text from my friend Elizabeth. Her daughter and Sophie attend the same high school. The text included an image of an exchange Elizabeth had just had with her daughter:

Mom, there’s apparently this thing going around social media that someone is going to shoot up the school at 9:30….I think this is serious, the teachers are even talking about it. I don’t know what to do. Some people are already leaving. 

Elizabeth texted that she was on her way, and then she texted me. Did I want her to get Sophie?

I did. I picked up my phone to text Sophie to tell her and suddenly, I was filled with panic.

Last year, Sophie’s team decided she should leave her phone at home because she has trouble putting it away during class. Nothing was working, I was told, and finally I agreed. This has been on my list of things to discuss at a team meeting at the end of the week — it’s made me uncomfortable, that the rules are different for the kid with Down syndrome when pretty much every kid I know (including the students in the college classes I’m teaching) has trouble putting the phone away.

While all the other kids were texting their parents, Sophie was not. A few minutes went by, and my phone rang. It was not a familiar number. But it was Sophie. She’d found a phone. I asked her to put her teacher on. She did — she was in drama class.

“Is she okay?” I asked the drama teacher.

“She is,” he said. “She’s always calm with me.”

I know how much Sophie adores this guy — she talks about him constantly — and I could hear from his voice that the feeling is mutual. He didn’t want to tell me what to do but he did tell me there were 19 kids in class when the period started and now there were 10. Of course he’d have someone walk Sophie to the office to meet Elizabeth, he said.

I love our village.

Sophie spent the day with Elizabeth. When we spoke, she didn’t want to talk about what had happened at school. She was too excited about the fact that Elizabeth had cranberry juice at her house. They watched Shrek and played cards. Sophie’s nanny, Sarah, picked her up and they headed home to do school work.

The calls and emails from the school district came in all day. The threat was not credible. It’s a crime to make threats on social media. The police have it under control.

I wished for metal detectors. My mom called and wondered if maybe we should get Sophie a bulletproof backpack.

As it turns out, these threats have been coming in all over town, about different schools. Honestly, I’m surprised that kind of thing doesn’t happen more often. Can you imagine the charge that person got out of watching hundreds of parents drop everything and rush to pick up their kids? That’s a lot of power.

And then there’s the power the day had over Sophie. Late in the afternoon she texted me an image from SnapChat that said kids weren’t allowed to bring back packs to school. I emailed Sarah, asking if Sophie was worried.

“She keeps saying her friend got shot in the back and is in a wheelchair now,” Sarah wrote.

Sophie must be confused, I thought. No one was shot today. In fact, I don’t know of any kids at her school who –  and then suddenly, my eyes stung.

“What’s her friend’s name?” I wrote back, even though I knew what the response would be.

Sophie’s friend is Jennifer Longdon. She’s not her classmate, she’s a grown woman, and Sophie is right. Jennifer was shot in the back and she uses a wheelchair. I wrote a story about Jennifer and afterward, we became friends. We’ve eaten beignets on birthdays, Jennifer has come to the girls’ dance performances, and one Easter Sunday, several years ago, Sophie stood in Jennifer’s living room and stared hard, then asked her, “Why are you in that wheelchair?” Jen told her.

Sophie didn’t forget.

I love our village.

My phone rang. It was Sophie.

“Jennifer Longdon got shot in the back and I don’t want anyone to bring a gun to school,” she said.

I thought of how annoyed the staff at the high school would be when I send Sophie to school with her phone. I thought about whether or not to tell Jennifer what Sophie had said. I thought about how completely fucked up the world is.

“No one is going to bring a gun to school,” I told Sophie, although I’m not so sure I believe that myself.

Does anyone know where I can buy a metal detector?


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5 Responses to “Sophie Didn’t Forget”

  1. What a nightmare!
    Several times when my son was in high school the staff confiscated his phone—he was independently taking the public bus home each day—but had a tendency to take side trips to Taco Bell, Game Stop or other places—so the GPS app on his phone was OUR security. When they took his phone they took his safety. I finally had to go batshit crazy on them after he had taken his ATM card out of my purse (unbenounced to me) and went on one of his creative shopping sprees ending in a $389 overdraft on his account…and a melting gallon of Rainbow Sherbert ice cream.
    It’s not the 80’s. Phones are truly lifelines now. We worked out the teacher could hold the phone on their desk during class—and Sean picked it up on his way out. He never forgot. (((Hugs))) so wonderful that Sophie’s friend was watching out for her. THATS the safety in inclusion.

  2. My husband and I recently moved school districts and had to tour my 3rd grader’s future school. While walking around the school, I kept thinking “Where would he hide if there was an active shooter?” The whole idea scares me. Our parents didn’t have these worries when we were in school. Why are we forced to deal with this? My heart goes out to you and your family during those horrific hours of wondering if the threat was real.

  3. That really breaks my heart to have to read about this shit (excuse the language) going on at Sophie’s high school. Hopefully it won’t happen again and she will feel safe.

  4. Thank you for writing this. Brings so much to light about our kids in school, guns, fear, friends, discrimination and relationships. I am so thankful that Sophia has the language to tell your and text your her thoughts about this experience. I would have had to rely on others to tell me what my daughter was going through and it is a blessing that Sophia can communicate so well.

  5. Oh Amy, once again you have captured a multilayered moment that at once filled me with fear, confusion, anger, compassion and hope.

    PS I recently met Jen through Mom’s Demnd Action. She’s an amazing woman and I hope she is successful in her bid for the Legislature. (And yes I did send a donation.)

    Hope the teaching is going well!

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