WASHINGTON - The 2002 sniper shootings made everyone who stepped outside feel like a potential target, and it was particularly challenging for the people in charge of keeping kids safe.
Ed Clarke, former director of safety and security for Montgomery County Public Schools, vividly remembers the morning of Oct. 3, 2002 when four people were shot.
"There were rumors that school may close early that day, which was not correct," he says.
"The superintendent of schools was not closing school early because the safest place for children that day was in school, until the police department figured out what was occurring as a result of all those initial shootings."
There was also concern for the students who normally stand on the street and serve as crossing guards.
"During the 3 1/2 weeks, the superintendent made the decision to pull in the young school patrols, because it was unsafe for them to be out there on their crossings," Clarke says. "Parents and volunteers rose to the occasion and manned several of those posts at all of our elementary schools to make sure kids got to school safely every day."
Law enforcement officials even took to the skies to keep children safe.
"To see tactical FBI helicopters flying over our schools in the morning hours and in the afternoon hours as well was just incredible," he says.
Today, Clarke is still in the school security business.
He says he understands parents' instincts to rush to school and pick up their child during an emergency, but this isn't necessarily the best course of action.
"The key is for parents to pause, understand that the schools have good procedures in place to keep their children safe and to follow the direction of the school system or the local police department in terms of coming to be reunited to their children," he says.
In addition, Clarke suggests having a plan for what to do in a crisis and practicing it regularly.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
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