Student relives acting as shooting victim
by Hiba Tahir
Oct 25, 2013 | 2475 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hiba Tahir with her victim tag
Hiba Tahir with her victim tag
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Editor’s Note: The following is the account of Cleveland High School Senior Hiba Tahir as she participated in Wednesday’s active shooter exercise.

The floor was cold. Hard. I pressed my cheek into it and watched as nameless figures assumed their positions around me. We — my fellow "victims" and I — had jokingly made plans to sleep during the exercise, to find some relief in our hectic senior year schedules. Lying there on my stomach in the hallway, I didn't find the idea of sleep to be totally inconceivable. It was relaxing as far as cold, hard floors go. Quiet chattering surrounded me but I had been placed in my own isolated section of the hallway. The nearest "victim" was lying too far away for me to speak to. Somewhat bored but mildly curious, my mind decided to occupy itself by daydreaming. After all, what was there to worry about? The majority of us were "experienced" actors, trained by four years in the prestigious Cleveland High School Drama Club. As far as we were concerned, this was just another acting job. I was unaware when the chattering quieted down to little more than a whisper; unaware when the nameless figures sank into the shadows and disappeared from my line of sight. A deadly silence pervaded the hallway, and everyone seemed to be holding their breaths. I looked up in surprise just as the front doors to the school burst open and my classmates raced in with assumed looks of horror on their faces. I watched them through half-shut eyes, impressed by their theatrical skill. Just another acting job, right? But when the "shooter" burst in behind them and began firing, the terror on their faces was real. Their footsteps fell considerably faster. One girl nearly stumbled; if it were a true event, she would've been trampled in the chaos. For the first ten seconds or so, everyone was too shocked to scream — it was much realer than any of us had anticipated it would be — but when the screams finally erupted throughout the hallway, they were ear-piercing. It took me a minute to realize some of them were my own. My eyes fell shut as the crowd of people raced by. More shots were fired into the air; the heavy scent of sulfur suddenly filled the hallway. I cried out in pain, as I'd been instructed to do. Distant shots rang throughout the school; distant screams from the adjacent hallway. A few feet down the hall from me, another student whimpered. But there was no one there to hear our cries; no one there to ease our supposed pain. The shooter had made his way through the school and was back in our hallway when the police officers arrived. A suspenseful chase ensued, but my "gunshot wound to the back" pushed all thoughts but the desire for relief from my mind, and I joined the other victim in pleading the officers for help. They ignored us. They had only one priority — to take the suspect down. My heart raced as I watched them tackle the shooter to the ground right in front of me. They had succeeded in their mission, but where were the emergency responders? The medical personnel? Mrs. Jones, our school counselor, checked me for injuries and assured me that help was on the way. The wait was agonizing, but I suppose when you're in critical condition, every second feels like a lifetime. Finally, medical personnel from the Bolivar Medical Center arrived, toting bags full of supplies and racing to victims. They asked me where my injury was and whether or not I was bleeding profusely before pressing a heavy wad of gauze to my back and slipping a sign around my neck to let others know that I'd been treated. I was then led to the ambulance. There, they strapped me into a stretcher and put a neck brace on me to minimize the risk of paralysis in case my spine had been injured by the bullet. They asked me more questions, and then together, we waited for further instruction. Overhead, a helicopter flew by before landing on the football field. After about 10 minutes, I was transported to a different ambulance along with three other "victims" with critical injuries. One had a gunshot wound to the abdomen, another to the leg, and the third to the left chest. Despite our injuries, we couldn't help but be excited to ride an ambulance in probably the most agreeable of circumstances. We were "rushed" to the emergency room. Outside the entrance, I was given another tag to place around my neck, a tag that loudly proclaimed that I was in critical condition and required immediate medical attention. I was then placed in a wheelchair and quickly wheeled into the hospital, where they led me to a secluded hospital bed. A woman quickly placed three wires on my chest, clipped something to my finger, gave me IVs, and strapped a blood-pressure cuff to my arm before cleaning and bandaging my "wound." Throughout the entire process, I was again bombarded with questions. After I was stabilized, they wheeled my bed to the CT room, where I was given a CT scan. I was then wheeled back to my room, where my blood pressure was checked again and it was determined that I should be airlifted to Jackson for further treatment. I was then finally allowed to take off my neck brace. My fellow victims and I boarded the school bus that waited for us in the parking lot of the hospital. We were transported back to school, where we were reunited with the other victims — those who didn't have injuries serious enough to go to the emergency room. Although the day had been alternately terrifying and exciting, I was extremely thankful to be part of the exercise. I know my classmates were too. We'd heard countless stories of school shootings before - especially in recent years - and though we'd thought through scenarios and experienced countless lockdown drills, I don't think any of us realized just what such a horrific event would entail and just how utterly terrifying it would be. I think, above anything else, I was struck by the regularity of the day. It was just another Wednesday. The sun was shining. People were chattering happily amongst themselves. In the morning, we'd jokingly argued over the signs that proclaimed our supposed injuries. "This is lame," one guy lamented when he realized his injury was tripping while running and hitting his head. But I think it's safe to say that we were all a little shaken by the end of the exercise, when we saw how quickly "regularity" can turn into "irregularity," how quickly one event can turn an entire community's world upside down. We realized that no injuries are too small in a school shooting. The whole town is involved and each person affected by every casualty.