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A mother and son reflect on school shooter drills

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And it's time now for StoryCorps, which we hear each Friday. The elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, has families around this country searching for answers, and today we hear a conversation between a mother and son who live a few hundred miles away from Uvalde in Houston. Back in 2018, 10-year-old Dezmond Floyd and his mother, Tanai Benard-Turner, came to StoryCorps to talk about the active shooter drills in Desmond's fifth-grade classroom.

DEZMOND FLOYD: The class is supposed to stand on the back wall, but I decided to stand in front of the class because I want to save my friends.

TANAI BENARD-TURNER: Do you know why it's hard for me to accept that?

DEZMOND: Because I'm such a young age. You shouldn't have to worry about that.

BENARD-TURNER: Right. You're 10, and you're that 10-year-old who doesn't clean their room (laughter). And there is no handbook for this. This is why the conversation always ends between you and I in dead silence - because I'm a mother, and I don't know what to say.

INSKEEP: OK, that was 2018. Today Desmond is 14 and recently came back to StoryCorps with his mom.

BENARD-TURNER: So how does it feel listening to that recording?

DEZMOND: Now that I'm in high school, I kind of realize the reality of active shooter drills. And it's kind of emotional because I'm sitting next to my friends, just waiting for a teacher to fake banging on the door. Like, once I thought about, what would be the last word I said to this person sitting next to me? Or what would they say if they were calling out for help for me? Would I play dead? Would I hide in their blood? You know, it's a drill, but there's time during - it's like, one day there's a possibility this is going to be real life.

BENARD-TURNER: This is my first time ever hearing some of this. So you're telling me you've actually thought about what your last words would be to your neighbor in the middle of a drill.

DEZMOND: Yes.

BENARD-TURNER: I would have never - I mean, like, that's hurtful as a parent to think that, at 14, your thought process has to be, what would I do? And I feel like the conversation that we had four years ago is the same conversation that we're having now.

DEZMOND: These are life lessons now, and you take them into the real world. It's walking into a store and being prepared - like, which door can I escape out of if this were to happen, you know? School is supposed to be where we learn, where we have fun and your parents wondering, what grades did you get? What tests did you take? Not what drills did you do today? This isn't normal at all.

BENARD-TURNER: I pray over you every night and pray that you are not the next victim of anything. And I pray that you're never the hero of anything. You know, it's like, when does the stop?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Tanai Benard-Turner with her 14-year-old son Dezmond Floyd in Houston. The conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.