I was working with a colleague of mine administering the “Iowa Tests” to seventh graders at Oklahoma Christian Schools. We had already completed our short devotion, read the daily announcements, turned in the lunch counts and absences and briefed the students on instructions for their exams. I hated Iowa Tests; to this day I tend to be a conscientious objector to the whole process. However, my co-teacher Tammy was one of the “radical” teachers at OCS and if there was anyone to be stuck with all day long, coaxing our students through the never-ending task of coloring in circles, it was her.
I was strolling from the front of the class to the back, observing 24 heads bent down tediously over their papers as I passed when a rolling thunder-like roar filled my ears. The ceiling tiles were lifting about six-inches from their positions as the shock wave passed, much like you might observe a crowd at any football game do “the wave.” I immediately turned and caught Tammy’s eyes. “Students,” I said, “please remain in your seats, close your tests, and pass them forward in order,” I said trying to keep my voice calm. We had been experiencing a long-term construction process on the campus grounds and I assumed one of the Bobcats had hit a gas line. The result from any explosion wasn’t going to be good. I began to feel shaky. I couldn’t imagine what my students were feeling at that moment.
Tammy and I conferred. She would go check on the situation while I stayed with the students. I opened the back door to visually check the construction zone while the students buzzed in speculation behind me. All clear. In fact, there weren’t any construction workers on the grounds at all. The equipment was parked. Could it have been a low-flying plane? Could it have been an explosion so big it was perhaps across the campus or maybe even in Edmond somewhere?
I didn’t have to wait for long. Tammy came back in to the room, her eyes were huge and had begun to collect tears around the rims. She told me what happened. We did our best to talk about an explosion downtown in nondescript terms without providing all the details she had just learned, but we knew full well what was about to happen. We prayed with the class. Earnestly.
“My DAD works downtown,” one student said immediately. “My aunt works downtown, too,” said another. “I need to go, I need to go call my parents.” This last statement echoed across the classroom as Tammy and I made impromptu plans to allow the students, two at a time, to go make phone calls if they had reason to be concerned. The Iowa tests were not going to be completed that day.
And quite possibly, they weren’t going to be completed at all that year.