CHS Students Give First-Hand Accounts of Code Red Lockdown

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Though most students and staff remained calm, there were some tense moments at Columbia High School on Monday afternoon when a Code Red lockdown was initiated after reports of a student possibly armed with a weapon or weapons.

After a search of the building, police found a student armed with a pair of brass knuckles and arrested him, according to Maplewood Police Chief Robert Cimino. No one was injured, and the lockdown was lifted at 2:15 p.m. The authorities are still seeking a man who they believe was also involved in the incident.

The school followed the district’s lockdown procedures by immediately notifying police and then announcing the Code Red over the loudspeaker.

Just before 1 p.m., a siren went off with an automated voice stating, “This is a lockdown red,” said one student. Many students were surprised and some were frightened, according to a freshman who was in the boys’ locker room with roughly 15-20 other students.

“We heard the siren and alarm announcing the lockdown,” the freshman said. There were no adults in the room at the time. The group huddled against a wall in the back of the shower area. After about 15-20 minutes, Asst. Principal Michael Healy announced on the loudspeaker that this was not a drill but an “active shooter situation.”

“We were kind of freaked out and waiting for something to happen,” the boy said. “Some kids were shaking.” Eventually, a security guard and later, a police officer, came by to check on them.

Healy made several announcements over the next hour, telling students police were on the scene and “stay where you are.”

When the siren sounded, “I knew immediately something was off” because it was during lunch period, said one freshman who was in math class at the time. His teacher calmly told the students to move to the back of the room away from the windows.

The students remained silent for roughly an hour and fifteen minutes. The teacher passed around a note letting students know that “because of protocol this might take a long time.”

The boy said students could hear helicopters buzzing overhead. “We knew something big was going on,” he said. Still, he said, “I was not scared, because I am confident in the security and efficiency of our school.”

After a police officer unlocked the door to check if everyone was all right, the students were allowed to return to their seats and talk quietly until the lockdown was lifted. Many students were texting parents and friends, and “a lot of rumors” were going around.

A girl in a freshman history class said the teacher told students not to use their phones to text during the lockdown, because it could be dangerous for anyone to know where they were.

One senior English class on the third floor spent most of the lockdown in a stifling book closet. “It was unbearably hot,” said a student, who said one girl passed out. The teacher called the school nurse and gave the student water.

“Our teacher had made us feel entirely secure…she has a calming presence and made the experience as stress-free as possible,” the senior said. However, the siren and recurring announcements of an “active shooter” were disconcerting, she said. The student and her friends held each others’ hands and held back tears.

Overall, however, she thought administrators did a “decent job” handling the situation.

At shortly after 2 p.m., Healy came on the loudspeaker again along with the school’s head of security, who told students the lockdown was over. Healy said students would continue with their 7th period class. Students who had been outside the building at lunch when the lockdown began were allowed back in.

“…I never really thought it could happen here,” said the senior. “Sure, I’ve thought about it during the drills, but it never seemed like a real possibility. I’m really just thankful that Columbia isn’t another Columbine.”

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