When you get that “alert” that your child’s college is on lockdown

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University of Utah campus view.

Last night my daughter texted me to say her college was on lockdown. Then, I began getting “alerts” from the University of Utah. It’s one of the worst feelings when you get notifications of a lockdown at your children’s college. Not only did I lose a night’s sleep with worry, but I’m so sad that our kids have to live through this. We never envisioned our kids living through terror-filled nights when we sent them off to college.

Other moms I know had an awful night, too, as we waited for news about our kids. We prayed for them to be safe. We commiserated by text and Facebook and I wish the world wasn’t such a scary place. Thankfully, my daughter is safe along with the children of my friends.

If you missed the story on the news today, a man with a long history of crime and run-ins with the law was camping with his wife in the canyon above campus. The wife left him for the University to report a domestic dispute. The husband must have followed her because next there was a shooting of Chen Wei Guo, a 23-year-old foreign exchange student from China.

In an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, you can learn more details. Can you imagine sending your child to the United States as a foreign exchange student and finding out that he’s been shot and killed?

“University of Utah officials, fellow students and friends were coming to grips Tuesday with the Monday night shooting that left a student dead at the mouth of Red Butte Canyon.

“ChenWei Guo, of Salt Lake City, would have turned 24 on Sunday. 

“Guo was parked in his vehicle near the gate at the mouth of the canyon when 24-year-old Austin Jeffrey Boutain attempted a carjacking, police said. During the encounter, Boutain allegedly shot Guo, who suffered fatal injuries.”

Last night reminded me of a horrific night while my son was at the University of California at Santa Barbara a couple years ago. Here’s how that story unfolded:ucsb

View of the UCSB campus.

Friday night, I had tucked myself into bed when the phone rang. It was my son — a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara.


“Mom! There’s a drive-by shooter. A guy in a black BMW is randomly shooting people in IV! We can’t get home. Everything’s on lockdown.”

This was not a call I was expecting. Nor, one I wanted to receive.

Saturday afternoon, he called again. “I just went to the store. We’re on lockdown again and I can’t get home.” 


 A view from a dorm room at UCSB.

Friday night the lockdown was because of the shootings and crashing of the BMW. Saturday, the police were removing deceased male roommates who had been stabbed from the killer’s apartment building.

l followed the story closely on the news. It’s almost all I could do for most of the weekend. I don’t understand why it happened, or how it could have been prevented. I believe we all tried to find a cause for this horrific tragedy to try and make sense of what had happened when that was impossible.

My heart and prayers go to all the families at UCSB. It’s been a tough year. I think the great academic accomplishments of the school are being overshadowed by tragedy. There’s too much trauma for students to digest. I wonder how these events will affect our kids in their future lives? Read about the academic accomplishments of UCSB in the LA Times here.

Just a few weeks ago, I got a call from my son during the Deltopia riots. I wrote it about Deltopia here.


A Deltopia party picture.

Add that to the weekly emails about a meningitis outbreak, and it hasn’t been a stellar year for UCSB parents, students, or the faculty.

The frantic fear in my son’s voice is not what I envisioned hearing. I am sure this is not isolated at UCSB, but just becoming more common at universities across our country. Is this the new normal for our kids? They aren’t experiencing the carefree college years that we did. Where did that world go?


The view of the beach from UCSB campus.

Maybe if this is the new norm, as awful as that sounds, we need to be more aware and prepared. I don’t know the answer to any of this, but I’m thinking our kids need to know what to do in the case of an emergency. Are colleges adequately ready to support our kids in times of danger? The alerts let them know when something is going on and does tell them what to do. That’s something that wasn’t around back when I was in college.

How would you prepare your kids for emergencies when they’re away from home?

4 thoughts on “When you get that “alert” that your child’s college is on lockdown

  1. I’m not sure that there is anything we can do as parents to prepare our children for situations like this. My daughter’s college was on lock down last year because of a stabbing and suspect at large a block away. It was scary. The high school has practice lock downs. At least the schools are doing something proactive. Thankfully with cell phones at least there is more communication about potential threats and greater ability for our kids to communicate that they are okay. It is scary that we can’t protect them.

    • I agree with your comment. It’s scary that we can’t protect them. We’re away and want to be there to make sure they’re safe. It’s wonderful that the schools have the alert systems in place and that our kids can text us. I don’t know what more we can do except bring this up to our kids before they leave, that they may experience something like this?

      • The thing is they are probably more equipped to deal with this than we are since we never experienced it. Also, I am finding out there are a lot of things that we weren’t prepared for. For example, my daughter ended up getting really sick. She had no idea where to go or what to do. She also had no idea that for an oil change she needed to go on mileage versus the date listed. There are so many things we weren’t ready for…I don’t know how we could’ve prepared better..

  2. My son had to come home for surgery his freshman year from a cycling accident. We didn’t know he should have taken a hardship withdrawal rather than miss too much college and get a letter kicking him out! He made his case and got his admission re-established, but looking back, we should have taken over that situation for him. So many do-overs I wish we could have done. But, we have to let them learn from hardships and can’t make it all better. Here’s a story I wrote about what we should teach them before they leave home: https://bleuwater.me/2017/10/25/top-10-life-skills-kids-need-before-college/ Thanks for your insight!

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