We pretended we were in a movie, that’s how innocent we were, how dumb. We walked up to the perimeter the teachers were holding away from the school then we moved in slow-motion away again. As if we were in DIE HARD or some other such tripe. We pretended the building was exploding in some idiotic action movie, running and then leaping at one-eighth speed, just like Tom Cruise or Bruce Willis did, the hero barely escaping a plume of fire behind, complete with that elongated audio-distorted “Noooooooooo.” This was the early nineteen-nineties, they were different times, that’s how innocent we were. How goddamned lucky.
A couple weeks before, the class neo-Nazi had been building pipe bombs in an attempt to blow up our high school. This is true, Christ help me, this is all how it went down. Filling pipes with nails and gunpowder, hoping to kill us all. One of the bombs, though, he screwed the metal too fast before the gunpowder could fully settle and he detonated himself instead. Blew off one of his arms, liquefied most of his intestines. The bomb squad came all the way from Albany, they found all the successful ones in his family basement, detailed plans, tortured animals, journals devoted to Nazism, Satanism, homophobic, etc. This was all before Columbine, before Sandy Hook, Parkland, Orlando Pulse, the Capitol Insurrection, hell, even before the Oklahoma City Bombing, though, so the news didn’t make it much past the local Utica NBC affiliate. If he’d pulled it off, I guess Little Falls could’ve been the first but, again, we were goddamned lucky.
Weeks later, as the would’ve-been bomber lie in hospital getting fitted for his lifetime of steel hook-arms and colostomy bags, some monster thought it would be cute to claim they were his follower and call a new bomb threat in on our high school. Partway through the day, we were evacuated to that perimeter for a full search and eventually classes were cancelled for the day. We pretended we were John McClane blown free of major damage by a fireball and then my grandmother got out of work to get us McDonald’s and take us home until our parents’ shifts ended. The parents couldn’t even get off their shifts immediately, that’s how long ago it was.
That’s how many bloodbaths we have had to watch on television since. Schools and government buildings and bars and restaurants but for some reason or another, the schools kept coming up as places for the death. The bombs, the guns, the death. If you weren’t from Little Falls, you might not even believe it happened. In college, after Columbine, I told classmates, they didn’t believe me, they thought I made my childhood into some dark inversion of Lake Wobegon to pretend I was deep. But it all happened, all almost happened. One turn of metal pipe shooting sparks on unsettled gunpowder. A simple twist of fate. Just in the movies after all, in its own damn way.