Players in burrito scare deserve praise

By Leslie Harder: Guest Columnist

As the world now knows, Michael Morrissey built a giant burrito to satisfy a school assignment. He wrapped it first in aluminum foil and then in a T-shirt to keep it warm and brought it to Clovis’ Marshall Junior High School last Thursday morning.

Somebody saw it coming into the school, thought it might be a gun and called police. The school was locked down, traffic was stopped, armed officers were on the school roof, predictably panicked parents snarled the phone lines and gathered to take their kids home. It all took some serious sorting out.

The intriguing adventure piqued the national, even international interest, and the story of our “Burrito Boy” has ended up receiving a veritable flood of media attention.

Most of that attention has tilted heavily toward the humorous aspect of the whole drama. And of course, now that it’s over, in our relief we can and should smile.

Well, hey, it was pretty funny, wasn’t it? A Clovis boy works hours to build a better burrito and suddenly there are sharpshooters on the roof.

It’s good to laugh. But while we enjoy the humor in the situation, there’s a serious aspect to this that shouldn’t go unnoticed. It’s important to remember that one of the best measures of a person is how he or she behaves under stress. And with that in mind, the principals in this episode have shown us they really measure up.

First, there’s the concerned citizen who phoned in the alert. Good for you — good for us all that someone made that call. The real danger in the ruckus over this event is that in the face of all the national kidding we’re taking, someone might not make that call the next time they see something that doesn’t look quite right. We can’t let that happen. Make the call. Bottom line, it really could have been a gun.

Then there’s Michael Morrissey, burrito maker. This young man had the maturity to come forward, face the music and solve the mystery at risk of putting himself into an awkward situation — the very state of affairs that has ensued. He stepped up and by so doing truncated what could have been a long, expensive investigation. He says they’re calling him “Burrito Boy” these days. Well, Burrito Boy, you are a class act. You did the right thing. We’re proud of you.

Marshall Principal Diana Russell offered the summarizing comment, “Overall, I’d say we had a good learning day.” That’s the epitome of what an educator should say and of the example an educator should set before the children. This is what we do with crises, we learn from them.

She said the school will fine-tune its notification process, which some parents found problematic, and that’s bound to be a good thing. But when seconds count, as they do in real emergencies, it’s safety first, reportage second.

Bringing the children together to let them in on what was known and seek their input into the situation was a wise and fruitful thing to do. Also, it shows respect (the kind of respect we want our educators to have) for the children’s ability to contribute.

Finally, high praise should go to New Mexico State Police, Clovis police and the Curry County Sheriff’s Department. Many of us remember all too well the catastrophic cost in Columbine when police officials hesitated, using up precious time to plan out, detail and weigh their response. Our law officers took immediate action.

As a community, we need to encourage and support them as they continue to do what it takes: to stop traffic, to go up on roofs, to do whatever their expertise and training indicate. And we mustn’t forget that they are putting themselves directly into potential harm’s way when they do this. We need to thank them more often than we do.

By moving instead of hesitating, they risked being embarrassed. But what if they had not acted quickly and the class project had been a gun?

May all our threats turn out to be giant burritos and may our community never, ever have to deal with the real thing.

Leslie Harder is a freelance writer living in Grady. She teaches creative writing workshops in Clovis. lharder@plateautel.net