An Investigation on DMAE’s Safety

Newtown Memories Resurface


At least 20 mass shootings have occurred in the US just during Obama’s presidency and six in the year of 2013 so far. From Newtown to the Navy Yard, America has experienced a number of sad deaths. Despite the sympathy these tragic news strike in us, it never occurred to many of us that a similar situation could take place in our very own vicinity.

Who would have anticipated that a shooting would take place in the very shopping mall that we frequently go to simply to spend time with our friends and family?

On Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, Richard Schoop, 20, of Teaneck, NJ opened fire at the Garden State Plaza Mall, leaving a suicide note at home. Although he did not shoot anyone, he released multiple gunshots, instigating fear. Schoop is believed to have wanted a police-assisted suicide, but ultimately killed himself. The gunman might not have physically harmed anyone, but he sure did leave emotional scars on many, including a student from DMAE.

Christopher Pena, a DMAE senior, was working at 16 Handles, a frozen yogurt store at the mall, when he heard the first gunshot. At first, he and his coworkers thought it was noise from the construction. But, when they saw people running across the mall, they realized it was the sound of gunshots.

Fortunately, he was able to get out of the building before the lockdown, yet Christopher felt fear.

“Although I managed to get out of the building before the mall went on lockdown, I was really nervous running through the mall’s parking lot trying to find the rest of my co-workers and trying to communicate with my family and boss,” said Christopher emotionally.

Sitting in the Common Area leaning back in the chair, he recalled the nerve-racking feeling seeing people around him run without a sense of direction and having cars speed by him.

“It was scary since you didn’t know who was who and if they were going to hurt you or not,” Christopher commented.

Since the shooting, Christopher has been very alert when working and cannot trust everyone who comes into the mall. He has also been very sensitive to sudden loud noises and people running.

However, it didn’t help Bergen County residents when the very next day, on Nov. 5, 2013, Lodi High School and Alexander Hamilton Elementary School in Glen Rock administered lockdowns after receiving phone threats.

Christopher feels that what happened at those schools could have easily been DMAE.

“The school is not doing everything in its ability to best protect its students,” commented Christopher. “For example, the security guards are not very effective at their jobs because they spend too much time socializing with students.”

However, others, such as senior Serena Huang, feel that the school has taken adequate measures to protect the student body.

“We have monthly lockdowns that simulate a situation during which a shooter is loose in the school building. I think the fact that we have security guards around the school building only adds to the feeling of safety,” Serena stated.

Students noticed that the school has begun to take extra precautions after such unfortunate incident. For example, after the Sandy Hook shooting, wearing ID’s was strictly enforced. After the Garden State Plaza incident, all bathrooms required an ID scan to enter.

Principal Elbert believes that the DMAE is a safe campus for all.

“I am very pleased with the security guards’ efforts in making DMAE a safe place. They are mostly Englewood residents and they can tell when a face doesn’t belong,” Mr. Elbert explained.

Mr. Elbert is required by the state to hold monthly lockdown and fire drills.

“After every lockdown, the security staff and administrators meet to discuss what procedures could have been improved. We use this feedback to fix everything next time,” Mr. Elbert commented.

Mr. Elbert said that all students can feel safe on campus even though he understands that there are situations that can get out of control.

Despite the tragic events that have occurred in the past few months, we can be grateful that our school is taking the necessary precautions to try and ensure safety at all times.