CBS This Morning” began its broadcast much like always on October 18. There was the usual, warm banter between co-anchors, Norah O'Donnell, Gayle King, John Dickerson, and the newest member of the CBS morning team, Bianna Golodryga, who is a veteran broadcaster, but only on board with CBS for the past two weeks. Discussions of the midterm elections, the sticky Saudi situation since the revelations in the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, and even baseball were on the plate of morning topics.

Nothing puts things into perspective as clearly as looking into the eyes of a child, and this morning, “CBS This Morning” correspondent, Vladimir Duthiers, looked right into the eyes of children, parents, and teachers at Beverly Gardens Elementary School, adjacent to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Riverside Ohio.

Just like on the “CBS This Morning” set, the school day for the fourth-grade classroom started like any other, with the teacher, Stephanie Thornton, settling her students into their assignments, and guiding their work.

One very major difference this morning in the classroom was the presence of cameras, there for a very unique purpose. The cameras were there to capture Stephanie Thornton and her students conducting an actual active shooter drill, and judging from the behavior of everyone involved, it was clear that the entire process had been done before. Parents send their children to school every day, knowing the headlines and the tragic reality that violence is possible anywhere, from churches to schools and parking lots, but few ever see their children equipping themselves for the unthinkable situation.

The children had some profound words on “CBS This Morning,” following their display of bravery, but the most powerful statement of the times needed no words at all.

Not the typical announcement

Duthiers was very dutiful in reminding viewers that this was a drill, knowing the experience was not something normally seen with morning coffee.

Principal Cristi Fields came on the familiar school intercom, reminding that this was an active shooter drill and that the students and school were pretending that “an intruder has come into the office.” With notice to “lock and secure your classrooms,” Ms. Thornton and her students sprang to action, as the teacher lowered the black drape to cover the window, and she and the students moved tables, desks, and chairs to barricade the door, tables first, chairs on top.

It is an unspeakably difficult sight to absorb, seeing children not yet four feet tall moving furniture as a failsafe to harm or fatality at the hands of a gunman or other weapon-wielding perpetrator. The last instruction given by Thornton was for each child to have something in his or her hands to defend himself. A book, a water bottle, or a pencil was taken as children huddled near their “cubbies.”

“I’m right here to help protect you,” Stephanie Thornton reminded as the “CBS This Morning” cameras continued to roll. She also told the children that she would let the office know that she and the children were secure. Although there were no visible tears and the routine was very regimented, the large, gazing eyes of the pupils spoke of the gravity that none of the parents of these children had ever had to seriously consider.

Tears and assurance

Tears may not have been evident at the moment for the children, but for some parents seeing their children perform under these conditions for the first time, the emotion was real. One mother, Arlene, was struck that “this is her reality, day to day,” and seeing the process in action was powerful, as she was also reassured that the school “knows exactly what to do.” Another mother, Lisa, is a teacher at the school, was moved by the full display, including her daughter, Lilla, who described that it's not “good” to have to do the drills, but that it is good that the “teachers will take care of us.” Her mother elaborated that Lilla did not understand the purpose of the drills at the start, but now comprehends the need for preparedness.

Nearly every hand was raised when Duthiers asked if children were afraid, but their practice routine demonstrated the kind of “muscle memory” that develops in children and makes the routine fluid. A classmate, Elijah, expressed his fears that a real incident could harm him or his friends, and that is the scary truth in every school in these times. The superintendent briefly discussed that his campuses do participate in volunteer firearm training for staff, but in these settings, no teachers in the classroom carry weapons. Those are safely stored in designated areas.

The emotion transferred from Stephanie Thornton's classroom to the “CBS This Morning” set, as all the co-anchors became visibly moved.

John Dickerson, a father of two daughters, choked back his tears unashamedly.

Beyond being proud of sons and daughters for achievements in academics, clubs, and sports, parents should commend children for the strength they carry in simply being brave enough to enter classrooms every day.

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