In came a girl, 10, carrying her backpack though the metal detector, which set off the alarm. “I’m sorry,” she said. She handed Cichra her pink binder and her lunch bag. He opened it and sifted through the contents inside. String cheese. Goldfish. Chocolate milk. “Looks good,” he said, handing the bag back to the girl. “Looks tasty.”
He had decided the best way to carry a gun in an elementary school was to act nothing at all like a person carrying a gun. A few of the other school guards in Butler wore old police vests and displayed guns on their hips, but Cichra dressed in reading glasses, khaki pants, a collared shirt and a sweater that covered up his Beretta. He sat by the entrance, reading a newspaper and studying attendance lists so he could memorize students’ names. Whenever one walked by, Cichra stretched out his right hand to give a high-five. “Hit me,” he said, until his palm turned red and a teacher stopped by to offer hand sanitizer.
“We usually think of germs as our number one threat,” the teacher said.
Every few hours, Cichra made coffee in the faculty lounge and then patrolled the school’s two long hallways, stopping along the way to admire the first-graders’ cardboard gingerbread men that decorated the walls. Summit Elementary had been built when administrators feared a fire more than anything else, and it had five sets of doors to allow for easy exit. Now those doors were possible entrances for an attack, and Cichra double-checked the locks and shook the handles.
Every once in awhile, a student approached him to ask a question. Did he carry a gun? Did he have any secret weapons like Batman? Did he have an extra badge to give away?