Between a Rock and a Hard Space…Again. Help!

rockhardspaceThe other day, a friend and I took a trip down to Little Rock to take care of some things and have lunch. Part of the trip is on a 4-lane highway, and as usual, the traffic was slightly heavy. I turned my head to face her as she was driving to catch a glimpse of a blue SUV type vehicle coming up on us in the passing lane. At that moment, I hear a screech of tires, see the nose of that blue vehicle dive out of sight, and the next thing I see is that vehicle spinning a 360 in the highway’s median to come to a stop facing the other direction in the other two lanes.

I yelled “Stop! Pull over and stop. Stop now.” Not having any idea what had just happened, my friend questioned me instead of pulling over and stopping, so again, I repeated, “Just stop! We have to be sure she’s OK.” Now looking in her rear-view mirror, she saw the blue vehicle get out of the way of traffic then drive on in the opposite direction. Whew. Then, my friend points out how crazy some people get and overreact, and I thought she was talking about me. Yeah, I got her rattled, but she was talking about the driver that spun and ended up going back the way she came, not me.

For me, it was one of those things where I go into crisis mode and act on instincts. I wanted to be sure that driver was OK, and that was a very powerful, driving force in those few short moments that the whole thing took to happen.

The same sort of thing happened again today, only this time, I was in my office with someone who came in. This woman started to say to me right away, “Hey, did you hear about what’s going on in ____ School? There’s a gang war going on there with 1 gun and 7 knives. One of my kids goes to that school.” She was level-headed and not freaking out about it, so I asked a few questions about where and what, and it started to sound like a freaking crisis situation to me.

Did the school know about it? What was being done? Is it all under control? Was anyone hurt? Did the parents know? Was everyone OK?

And I went into crisis mode. I know of one person that would either have heard about it already and would be able to tell me for certain what happened, or he would be the one to get right to the people who needed to know about something like that happening, just in case it was building up to a school massacre or something like that.

I called my editor at the newspaper.

“Hey, did you hear about a gang war going on at the school with a gun and 7 knives…?” And before he could answer me, my supervisor came into my office and told me to get off the phone, that I was not a reporter while on the state’s time. So, I hung up. But, I was still rattled, and still not sure what to do, and totally helpless to do anything with my wings clipped like that.

Not long after, I got an email about it and I have to attend a meeting Tuesday morning. I violated policy by calling the paper about something a client had told me. My ass is grass.

Later, I called my editor back and apologized for hanging up on him. He told me that he had heard about many students Twittering and Facebooking threats to bring guns and knives to school and battling it out. He said when he called the school, they knew nothing about it, nothing was going on and nothing would go on. He had known about the rumors since early morning, hours before I called. Heavy sigh of relief. Those kids and parents were OK.

It didn’t take long for the weight of the situation to hit home. While I do not regret my quick action, it will probably cost me my job.

When I called, my friend helped me by saying, “Well, you could have just prevented another Columbine!” True, all I was thinking about was those kids and their frantic parents, but my own thinking didn’t take things that far. God forbid!

So, I throw it to you. Did I overreact in either situation? How would you have handled it? Got any advice for me and the meeting?

I’m so depressed…


  1. Well, I certainly hope this didn't cost you your job -- I will be thinking good happy job thoughts there. And I'm not sure what I would have done in your position, since my first thought isn't to call the editor of the paper - but that's because I'm not a journalist. I don't think you overreacted, in any case.

    Keep us posted!

  2. It would be a travesty for you to lose your job! You did what any caring person would do in such a situation.

  3. I hear a lot of shocking stories and I've never called the editor of the newspaper. Was it a matter of finding out the truth or reporting a scoop? Wouldn't it make more sense to call the school, police, or even the voicemail of a teacher? Even if you thought the threat was real, you do not use your business phone for personal use, ever. That's rule number one where I work. Excuse yourself and stand in front of the building to use a cell phone for personal calls.

  4. Sounds like you had a nerve rattling day friend. Hope you are feeling better.

    As for the truck spinning out of control. I would have pulled over and waited to see if they rectified the situation or if something worse would happen. I would have been prepared to call emergency services.

    As for the school problem. Being that the mother of a child attending there was calm, I probably would have asked if she or anyone else had called the police. Beyond notifying the police there would have been little else to do.

  5. It is my understanding that the police will not respond unless something is actually happening.

    I'm sure the police were called at some point.

    I used my own phone to make the call.

  6. Calling the editor of your paper no doubt seemed odd, but myself knowing that Warren is also a Minister and a youth counselor and has close contacts with all the local school officals makes him the ideal person to get to the bottom of the situation. Had things turned out differently it could have ended in a Columbine or Virginia Tech type massacre. Lets face it, it only takes one or at most two deranged teens to cause untold death and destruction.

    IMO it was your MORAL and ETHICAL DUTY to tell someone in a position to find out if the threat was credible and Warren was a good choice. The fact is I cant personally think of a better choice. Someone who could find out without wasting the time of the police if the rumor was just a rumor, or... alert exactly who needed alerted to most quicky foil the plot.

    I suspect the boss at work thought you were calling to give a juicy news tip and thats what made you look so bad in their eyes. However...that mostly speaks to their not understanding the nature of the news. There is no news "tip off" BEFORE an event happens, and unfortunatly in many cases police wont respond until after the fact either.

    SO IMO you did the right thing. Had you called nobody and kids would have died in an effort to follow office rules you would indeed have a black and rotted soul. My hats off to you for taking action against a threat of domestic terrorism even if it costs you your job. Sometimes you just have to do the right thing.