Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Because of the murders in Iowa City yesterday, my daughter's school was put under lockdown. I had no idea what that actually meant. I figured they lock all the doors, maybe lock the classroom doors, police patrol the area, and everything proceeds as normal for the kids. Apparently, that's not what happens. Rachel sat silently against the wall in a locked classroom with the lights out. They were not allowed to read or draw. They were positioned so anyone looking in the window in the door would not see the kids. I am not criticizing the school for this decision. It was a good one. I do wonder if maybe we need two types of lockdowns: a soft lockdown in this situation when there is no direct threat to this school and a hard lockdown when there's a decent chance the threat is coming at that particular school. A soft lockdown would be as I had imagined above. In cases of uncertainty, go with the hard lockdown.

Today I am, however, very angry at the person who killed the Sueppel family. It was probably Steven Sueppel, of course. I am angry not just because he killed five innocent people that he was supposed to protect and love. I am angry because his actions are going to have an impact on our entire community. I had to explain what happened to my daughter. So far, I have not had to tell her about the murders. I explained the lockdown was because a bad man who stole money was driving around town. When she asked if they caught him, I told her he died in a car accident. However, it seems highly unlikely that no one at school today won't be talking about the murders. And so I'll have to explain to my seven year old why a father killed his wife and four small children. And since I don't understand it, I don't know how exactly I'm going to be able to explain it to Rachel.

One thing I have noticed is that it's a lot harder to protect the younger sibling from these sorts of situations. If Rachel had been a four year old when this happened, she'd never have known about it. But Samantha is right there when I am explaining it to Rachel so her four year old brain has to wrap itself around the idea of a bad man driving around town. This isn't supposed to happen here in Iowa. We're supposed to be safe. That's one of the reasons I chose to live here.

Finally, I want to point in the direction of SideNotes, who has posted a poem someone wrote in the comments of one of the PC stories. It does a wonderful job of summing up how we're all feeling today.


Bob said...

Hey Matt,
This post is making me cry. I don't know how to tell a child why someone would want to hurt their own kids either. What the school did to those children in "lockdown" is borderline abusive. They were probably all scared out of their minds.
I'm so sorry this happened in Iowa City. I'm so sorry that a coward had to take his family with him.
This is just a tragedy for everyone in IC, not just the victims.

-Stefanie aka "bob"

Anonymous said...

Whomever is running your school is an ass. My kids' schools are a hell of a lot closer to the location of the shooting than yours. They simply locked the doors to the school and kept the kids inside. My children had no clue they were even on lockdown.

You might want to do something more useful than pontificating your woe on a blog. Go to a school meeting and insist they get in line with what the way the rest of Iowa City handled the problem.

My guess is you won't.

Have fun fondling your delete key.

Matt said...

Stefanie, thanks for your support. For the record, Rachel says she wasn't scared, but then she's only seven; I bet the older kids were more scared since they know what the possibilities are better than Rachel would.

Anonymous, I do plan to call the school. I have no idea why you are so hostile especially considering the circumstances we're talking about. I do find it strange that you know where my kids go to school. Do I know you?

Anonymous said...

I think you commenters (other than Bob) are talking out your ass. It wasn't abusive, it didn't scare the kids, and it was handled well. Wickham is built differently than, oh, say, Lemme, anonymous; the lockdown plan that Wickham has is designed to keep the kids safe.

While it is true that in this particular case there was no direct threat, I would much rather the kids be safe and bored than NOT safe in a situation with an actual threat.


Bob said...

Sharon, I think I misunderstood what Matt had posted. It sounded like the kids were hunkered down in the "atomic bomb" position hiding in hallways. In my mind I saw tiny little kids lined up and down halls in the assumed position not being told what was going on and having to be there for a long time. If that was true, than I do think they went overboard. Way overboard, and they should have considered the psychological impact on the kids. But as Matt indicated, Rachel wasn't scared, so it must not have been as bad in reality as it was in my imagination.
I also found out that my best friend's brother lives across the street from the house, and she had to talk to her kids about the whole thing because they did play with the kids in the past, and won't be able to do so the next time they are in Iowa City. Which is often. I'm still thinking about this way too much, and I hope however you had to explain it to your kids, it didn't subject them to too many nightmares. This really is so awful for the entire community.

Nelle said...

BTW, I was reading my favorite blogs and noticed that State 29 had the same entry as Side Notes. He said it brought him to tears.

It brought me to tears as well.

Matt said...


It seemed much worse when I posted that than it actually turned out to be. I am sorry if I upset you with the post. Still a crazy thing though. I am struck by the fact that the kids have a lockdown drill that they practice. Something we never had to think about when I was in school. It's such a different world.