“Fire!” the instructor yelled, as gunshots echoed off the mountains.
“Hit his chest,” the instructor shouted.
“He’s wearing a vest. Aim for the head!”
Cichra fired his last round and holstered his weapon. The instructor studied the mangled target and counted his score. Cichra had been shooting guns for most of his life: hunting rifles as a kid; an automatic M-16 in the Army; a revolver, a Glock and the Beretta as a state trooper. He put on a gun in the morning like he put on his glasses or his watch. He needed to score a 226 out of 300 on the test to qualify as an armed school guard. The instructor came back with a score sheet.
Sixty shots fired. Fifty-nine to the chest and one to the head.
“A real marksman,” the instructor said.
He had scored a perfect 300.
- - -
That qualified him to carry his Beretta to work the next morning at Summit Elementary, a single-story school of about 200 students located amid the shale mines and snowfields on the edge of town. Cichra arrived early and turned on a metal detector at the front entrance. He loaded one bullet into the chamber so he could fire instantaneously in case of an attack and 11 more into a magazine. He sat at a desk facing the glass doors, his eyes scanning the parking lot. A sergeant had told him once that a good state trooper operated like a traffic light on yellow, always on edge, anticipating whatever might come.
In came a boy, 8, tripping over his untied shoelaces. “You’re going to fall and hurt yourself, son,” Cichra said.
In came a boy, 6, with crayons spilling out his pocket. “Let me get those for you,” Cichra said, bending over to collect them.