I have vague memories of this particular day in my primary school. While in a class lesson, an announcement came blaring abruptly over the school sound system, ordering all students to make for the basketball court immediately. We were not to pack our school bags, we were to just stop classes, get out of the classrooms right away, and walk in an orderly manner to the courts. Yipee! No lessons! We all rushed out of the class and made our way down the many flights of stairs all the way to the open courts at the far end of the school. It was odd, no further announcements were made when we gathered at the courts. We all waited for close to an hour, feeling hot and very bothered. Roll calls were eventually carried out, but nothing else happened. Then, out of the blue, we were told to go home without returning to our desks to collect our school bags. I have no recollection of how the lower primary students went home, but being an upper primary student then, I borrowed some money from someone (I had left my wallet in class) and made for the public bus-stop to take the bus home. How happy I was that school hours were cut short and I was not allowed to retrieve my school bag from the classroom!
It was only the following day when I returned to school that I understood the meaning of the drill. Apparently, an anonymous caller had called up the school the day before and said that there was a bomb planted somewhere in the school grounds. The school had contacted the police to investigate, and then evacuated the school. As expected, it was a hoax. You wouldn’t believe it, but the entire episode happened again shortly after a few months, this time we all brought our school bags down to the field. Rumours abounded as to the source of the calls. Some said that the calls were made by students who wanted to get a school test postponed. Others claimed that the caller had been traced, arrested and sentenced. Whatever the case, from that year onwards, from time to time, the school would hold such safety drills to prepare us for any eventualities.
This week was Total Defence Day in Singapore. I found out from Little D that he also had to participate in a school drill on Total Defence Day. It was called the Lock Down drill. I shuddered when he related to me how the drill went. A school siren would sound, and the kids and whoever the teacher was in the classroom would have to get into action. First, they had to lock the classroom doors and push some tables to the doors to further secure it. Then they had to crouch and hide just below the windows next to the corridor so that they would not be seen and ‘shot at’ easily. They were to remain quite until the school siren sounded again to give the all clear. Although Little D said his class had a lot of fun carrying out the drill, I felt a chill run through my entire being as he related this episode to me. It was the same feeling I had when I first listened to the lyrics of Pumped Up Kids by Foster the People. Yuck, uncomfortable, uneasy.
My respect goes out to all teachers who have to prepare themselves psychologically to go through this drill. Thank you for your dedication in protecting the children under your care. My sincere appreciation for your sacrificial service.