Waking from the nightmare at WHS

Published 7:58 am Saturday, December 3, 2022

An unsettling scene played out Thursday at Washington High School.

Parents, diverted by Beaufort County Sheriff’s deputies, lined nearby Slatestone Drive where they gathered in fear.

They tried desperately to confirm the safety of their children as law enforcement swarmed the campus dressed in tactical gear, carrying rifles.

They clutched cell phones waiting for messages of hope from inside the school, where students and staff bunkered down in full lockdown mode.

It was the stuff of nightmares. Surreal. Terrifying. Heart-wrenching.

Thank goodness, there was no credible threat.

After the school was swept by law enforcement and secured, Sheriff’s deputies on the scene comforted parents with the news. Beaufort County Schools released statements assuring parents that all were safe and there was no incident, despite an earlier call to law enforcement that sparked the overwhelming response.

Relief.

Still, questions linger at the end of an emotional roller coaster ride for our students, teachers and their families — the heart of our community.

Who could do such a thing?

The answer to that is not yet clear. As Washington was working to make sense of a chaotic morning, reports of similar incidents began to surface from other communities across the state — as many as 15 other schools.

The seemingly-related events quickly captured the attention of state and federal officials, with both the Governor’s office and the Charlotte office of the FBI releasing statements.

Such swatting calls stress resources and distress personnel of law enforcement and school systems. They cause unwarranted and unnecessary anxiety. They’re dangerous and criminal.

The disturbing reality is they falsely report an unthinkable tragedy that’s become all too believable.

What have we come to that such incidents must be anticipated?

It’s a complex problem that likely requires a complex solution.

I don’t pretend to have the answers to stopping school violence. But I do know we have to keep trying.

In the mean time, some comfort may be found in the swift and powerful response of our local school system and law enforcement personnel.

But what next?

Talk with your children. Remind them if they see something, to say something.

Most importantly, hug them tight. And be thankful that Thursday’s nightmare was one from which we were able to awaken.

Ashley Vansant is publisher of the Washington Daily News. He can be reached at ashley.vansant@thewashingtondailynews.com.