A note: In this episode we talk about school lockdown drills, which may not be appropriate for our younger listeners.
Gen Z is growing up in a world changed forever before they were even born by events like September 11 and Columbine.
They’ve also been hit with two defining events that will shape their lives in ways we can’t even anticipate: the looming threat of climate change, and the more immediate threat of COVID-19.
How has growing up in a sort of "age of fear" shaped their lives?
Anja Jacobson is a senior at Community High School. Lockdown drills are something she’s been doing since elementary school.
“In fourth grade, I sat in the corner during a lockdown drill while my teacher stood at the door with a baseball bat. In seventh grade, my teacher mapped out an escape route for the class into the neighborhoods behind the school,” she said.
“Every student is familiar with that lump that forms in your throat when you hear the P.A. buzz. We’ve become accustomed to the procedures that must be followed during an active shooter drill. We turn off our phones, stay silent, and get out of the view of any windows.”
Two years ago, Community High went into a real lockdown after two people that didn’t go to the school walked into the building around midday.
Lacey Cooper is a Community High student who was in the building during the lockdown. She was a freshman at the time.
“At first, I think everyone was just kind of confused. I wasn't sure if it was a lockdown. I wasn't sure if it was like actually a lockdown. Like for real or if it was just a drill. It felt different than like other times when we were told explicitly like ‘this is a drill,’” she said.
Cooper hid in the library with the school librarian, Jerry. And she sent a text to her mom.
“And I told her: They think there might be like a school shooter here. We're all on lockdown. If anything happens, I love you. And she just texted back. Be safe. Like I love you.”
Cooper said other students were also texting their parents. And some were crying.
“I was crying. I had tears going down my face. And it was just honestly, probably one of the scariest things I've experienced,” she said.
Those two strangers walking through the halls weren’t school shooters. They were just two students from a different high school. And luckily, everyone was safe.
“There's something different about really being there and feeling that fear that makes you realize like, oh, this is something that could happen to me, to us like. And it was so sudden. It was...it was real,” Cooper said.
To hear how more lingering threats, like climate change, and immediate threats, like COVID-19, have added to the fears shaping the lives of today's teens, listen to episode two of Kids These Days on Apple Podcasts or wherever you like to listen.