Run. Hide. Fight.

Ilana Friedal

Run. Hide. Fight. 

It sounds like a childrens game of hide and seek. Yet although children know the name it’s not a game. 

July 4, I got off a plane in a brand new country. I connect to the wifi and scroll through social media. Facebook is my first choice. I want to see what my parents are doing in Greece. There’s a new post on the top of my screen, yet, it’s not photos of my mom, dad, and her best friend and husband, no it was an all-call post from my youth director: “is everyone okay? Does anyone know if people are ok? please call in and say if you are here”. 

I’m confused. What’s going on? It’s only 10 am at home. What could have happened? 

I scroll through the comments and find what it was : a shooting in Highland Park, a town just minutes away from where I went to preschool and where I frequent with friends. 

I was shocked. Just landing in a new country, yet, knowing something bad was happening is a strangely terrifying feeling. I didn’t know how to behave nor how to act. I needed to tell someone, anyone “oh shit” I had exclaimed. My new circle of friends looked up and were confused. “There’s been a shooting minutes away from where I live and part of where I grew up.” Then numbness. 

I have looked for solace since being home. I was removed from the initial aftermath so it wasn’t as painful.

Yet today, I sat in a meeting with my hebrew school director and my fellow madrichim (teaching assistant) as Mr. Sherman explained to us that many families in our congregation had been there. 

A family I had tutored and had become somewhat close with was there and my mom and aunt’s friend was shot in the leg there. 

He then explained our jobs and the standard procedures for a fires, tornados… and what to do if an active shooter were to enter our building. 

Run. hide. fight. 

We are told that this is why so many survived highland park because they ran for their lives. The safety plan we were given was like hundreds I’d heard before. “Kids, especially little ones, are prone to freezing when scared,” we are told by Mr Sherman, “so if something happens make sure you grab your class and tell them to move.” 

I mentally try to figure out how many toddlers I could hold in my arms and how many I could shepard in a moment of panic. These children will be the generation of run, hide, fight, just like we grew up with earthquake and fire and hurricane drills. They will participate in active shooter and evacuation drills with admin jiggling the door handles to test a class’s ability to remain silent if they must hide. 

At my school, Lombo keeps a bat in the advisory closet; she never says why it’s there; she doesn’t have to, it doesn’t have to be said. I used to associate running and hiding with recess, tag, and hide and go seek; fighting was what Kira and I would do when I threatened not to play with her because she was being mean. Not running as fast as I can to escape bullets faster than sound or hide in open concept rooms because they are better for a learning environment but not for stopping and hiding children from guns. Fighting is no longer for knights and sisters. Now I think, will god approve of me throwing a tanak (bible) at a shooter because it’s the heaviest thing I can find, would using the Torahs as a shield be kosher? Can I use a menorah to bash a shooter over the head? 

Today, as a madricha, I worry about the minuscule chance that I will need to grab my third graders and run or hide or fight to keep them safe. They will not know a time where hiding and running isn’t just for fun and where fighting is never ok. 

I want to believe that I am exaggerating, that this is just a spiraling of my anxieties after a long day of work and school, but deep down I know New Trier is not so different from Parkland and my synagogue is not so different from Tree of Life.