SKOKIE, Ill. — Reports of gunfire at a Skokie preschool sent parents rushing to pick up their kids Tuesday morning — only to realize it was a false alarm — as many remain on edge after the shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Just before 10 a.m. Tuesday, about 100 students were inside the Devonshire Cultural Center when many heard a loud explosion and feared the worst. Parents rushed to pick up their kids after hearing reports of possible gunfire.
“Just the sheer panic that you think your child was locked inside a building with a potential shooter inside is frightening,” parent Tone Stockenstrom said. "I heard they corralled the kids and they waited silently inside bathrooms.”
The center run by the Skokie Park District houses a preschool and other classes for kids. Armed police officers surrounded the building while teachers activated emergency plans.
"They were here within a matter of minutes, so I can’t thank the Skokie police enough for what they do," said Jon Marquardt, Skokie Park District.
It wasn’t long before police determined there was no gunfire. Instead, an over-inflated stroller tire had burst in a hallway.
“Ten years ago you could have just said this is a blown tire. That’s your first reaction. Now everybody’s first reaction is it’s gunfire or a an explosion,” Marquardt said.
"This is the panic of any parent in today’s society. It’s absolutely frightening,” Stockenstrom said.
The Skokie Park District says teachers and staff did exactly what they were trained to do.
"You can practice until you’re blue in the face, but until something happens or a perceived threat actually happens, you don’t know how staff is going to react; and they reacted great,” Marquardt said.
Parents say that’s as comforting as it gets these days.
"What’s been going on, it’s very disturbing to know that you send the kids to school and that’s not the safe place. And there’s no such thing as safe schools anymore," parent Youngjee Cho said.
Parents say many of the kids didn’t even know what was going on, though one little boy told his mom he thought there was a bomb and that’s why he had to hide in the bathroom.