When a child’s text message of love is ominous A mother and son tell their story

By Cynthia Prairie
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

An armed police detail stands outside the American Legion.

Heidi Skinner was at her computer Thursday morning researching colleges for her 18-year-old daughter Camille when a text message came in from her 14-year-old son Isaiah. Besides Camille and Isaiah, Skinner has another child at GM, 12-year-old Hannah.

It was 11:27 a.m. and Isaiah wrote, “I love you.” Calling the message “random” and “weird,” she immediately thought, “what’s wrong?” and texted Isaiah back, asking him if he was OK.

She said he wrote back quickly that the school was in lock down and he “didn’t think it was a drill.” She added that Isaiah wrote that they were told they could not make cell phone calls because of the possibility of remotely detonating a bomb.

In an interview, Isaiah said the lock down was announced over the PA by Administrative Secretary Kelly Goodrich. “Go into lock down. Now,” Isaiah recalled the blunt phrasing that indicated this was no drill.

Hugs from parents as they pick up their children from the American Legion.

At 11:30, Skinner got a text from Camille, assuring her mom that she was fine. “Just wanted to tell you I’m OK.”

Hannah and Isaiah were together in the band room, squeezing into a small office with 20 others while Camille was in another room having lunch with friends.

After about 30 minutes, Isaiah said, police officers dressed in SWAT gear came to escort them out of the building. He said he saw Chester Police Chief Rick Cloud in the main hallway, state troopers at each door, Weathersfield and Springfield Police in the parking lot loading shotguns as well as what Isaiah said were bomb-sniffing dogs.

Once at the American Legion, students had to find their teachers and attendance was taken to ensure that no one was missing.

Isaiah said that he saw parents lining up at the door, and then their children were paired up with them.

When he saw his mother, he recalled, “Mom picked me up, gave me a big hug.” Isaiah said, “everyone was shaken up, but there were not a lot of people crying.” He also noted the quick police action, saying, “I never thought that the police would have that quick of a response in that situation.”

Several hours after she took her children home, Skinner said she was still shaken, recalling recent school tragedies where students called and texted to their parents.

Skinner then said that her 12-year-old, Hannah, doesn’t have a phone. “But I think I’m going to fix that,” Skinner said. “I’ll get her one without service so that she can message.”

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Bruce Frauman says:

    Felt like I was there. Thank you.