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A Peek Into ~ A Very Present Help

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Chapter One


September 11, 2001

Des Plaines, Illinois


Shannon Collins sat at her desk, twirling a silky black lock of shoulder-length hair around her thumb as she made final notes on her lesson plan. Colorful fall drawings from her second-grade students filled the wall behind her.


Rapid footsteps echoed in the corridor just outside the classroom. Her head shot up and she stared at the door. Who could that be running through the halls? The students had all filed into their rooms and taken their seats more than an hour earlier. Maybe someone who came in late?


She hurried into the hallway to catch the perpetrator in action. To her surprise, it was an adult, halfway to the far end of the hall. Probably a parent.


She couldn’t very well reprimand a grown woman, but she could ask her to slow down so as not to disturb the classes in progress. Shannon opened her mouth to call out. Too late. The woman had rounded the corner into the next hall.


The principal’s voice came over the PA system. “Teachers, there’s been an emergency—an—ah, incident. Please gather your students and report to the auditorium at once.”


Mr. Hawkins’s voice had wavered. She’d never heard him sound like that before. What could involve the whole school? Would the students and staff all fit into the auditorium at the same time? Shannon’s mind whirled as she recalled news reports of Columbine. That couldn’t happen here. Could it?


Shannon stepped back into her classroom. “Children, please form two straight lines at the front of the room. We’re taking a walk to the auditorium.”


Chairs screeched as children left their desks and made their way forward. Shannon rubbed the prickled hair on the back of her neck as she led the children into the hallway and through the corridor.


At the end of the hall, one little girl came to a halt and gazed up at her. “What’s wrong, Miss Collins? You look scared.” The other children stopped and stared at her.


“I’m sure everything’s fine.” She put on her best assuring smile.


By the time they reached the auditorium, the atmosphere dripped with tension. What had happened?


(Scene 1 from Chapter 1)

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