Everybody has a story: 4th-grader's needle fear sparked pandemonium

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During the mid-1960s, I was in the fourth grade at Whittier Grade School in North Seattle. One day, our class of about 30 students was led out of our room in order to receive some type of vaccination.

After we each had received our shot, we filed back into the classroom to resume our studying. After everyone had sat down, I looked over at my friend, who sat in the row next to me. He looked very glassy-eyed and was quite still. I said, "Mark, are you OK?"

As I was saying this, he fell toward me, landing on the floor in a total faint. Of course, being in the fourth grade, I did not know what fainting was, and had never seen someone actually do it.

After Mark hit the floor, there was total silence in the room for a few seconds. Then a girl named Karen jumped up from her seat, yelling, "Those shots were poison, we are all going to die!"

The room immediately filled with mass screaming. About 20 students crowded into a corner of the room, hugging each other, crying and wailing. I stayed in my chair, staring at my friend, who remained unconscious on the floor a few inches from me.

Soon the vice principal came into our room and helped the teacher calm the class. He carried Mark off to the nurse's office.

Nearly 50 years have passed since that day. I truly wish that I could have met my teacher years later and ask her for her recollection of that event. If she had ever had a moment when she questioned her decision to be a teacher, that had to be it.

It turns out my friend Mark had only fainted out of fear of needles, and was fine and back in class in no time at all. We remained friends for decades after that incident — with me teasing him about it a few hundred times.


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