12-year-old writes goodbye letters to family during school lockdown: 'I thought I was going to die'

Kerry Justich
A middle schooler pens letters to his family during a school lockdown. (Photos courtesy of Claudia Charles)
A middle schooler pens letters to his family during a school lockdown. (Photos courtesy of Claudia Charles)

A 12-year-old boy in North Carolina wrote a heartfelt goodbye letter to his family out of fear for his life during a lockdown at his middle school on Friday.

Ajani Dartiguenave is a student at Governor’s Village STEM Academy in Charlotte, where students experienced an unexpected lockdown just before the weekend. The school is in the same district as David W. Butler High School, where a fatal shooting took place just a few weeks ago, followed by a number of scares during which guns were found at three in the area. Now, Ajani’s mother Claudia Charles is seeing the impact that these incidents are having on students first hand, after her son came home with a troubling handwritten note.

Picking her son up on Friday, Charles had no idea about what had taken place at school that day, telling Yahoo Lifestyle that parents weren’t informed of a lockdown.

I spoke to my son when I picked him up from school. He was telling his siblings what happened while I was on the phone with a client. My 6-year-old caught my attention when she said, ‘Mom, if I die at school I want you to know I love you,'” Charles explains. “My oldest son Ajani then began to become upset and told me, ‘Mom, we had a lock down, a real lock down today. I thought I was going to die. People were crying and praying.'”

Ajani went on to tell his mother that he wrote two letters to his family during the frightening moments. The 12-year-old then read them aloud to his mom and siblings. Charles explains the experience of listening to her son read the letters as “heartbreaking,” and says that she “felt helpless.”

Charles “felt helpless” when her son read his letters to her. (Photo: Claudia Charles)
Charles “felt helpless” when her son read his letters to her. (Photo: Claudia Charles)

“He even wrote our address on the top of the letter in case they had to figure out who wrote it, Charles continues. “When he and his friends saw each other after the lockdown, they began expressing to each other that they did not think they would see each other again.”

A spokesperson for the school tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “Governor’s Village STEM Academy had a limited outdoor activity lockdown on Nov 9th. The students were not allowed to go outside, however student movement inside of the building such as class changes, lunch activities and all instruction continued as usual.” Additionally, they say, “Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools offers support to any student who would like to speak with a school psychologist about any issue at any time. The district also offers support to families as well.”

Still, Charles maintains that she has yet to hear anything from the school about the incident or how to ease her child’s anxiety about it. The single mother decided to approach the situation with honesty by explaining to her son that she never had to experience that same fear as a student, while also reminding herself to stay strong for him.

“It is upsetting that as a parent I drive my child to school to ensure his safety and that he feels the real danger is school itself,” she says. “I’m mad the school has not responded to the local news and to parents about what took place and how they will provide support to students that were traumatized by these events.”

Since the Butler shooting, which took place 45 minutes from Charles’s home, and the recent lockdown incident, she has maintained open communication with her son in order to comfort him. She says that she also bought a new iPhone for Ajani to bring to school so that he feels more in control of his own safety.

I’m mad the school has not responded to the local news and to parents about what took place and how they will provide support to students that were traumatized by these events,” Charles says. Now, it’s up to her to make sure her son feels safe when he leaves the house every day. “He knows I love him and that even though as a single mom who is busy quite often he can always come talk to me about anything.”

Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:

Good Samaritan drives mother of school shooting victim to see son before he dies
Mom with ‘gut feeling’ stops school shooter before planned attack
Illinois schools have installed active-shooter alarms — will that do anything?

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