Gold River Teacher, Students ‘Ambushed’

Gold River, CA (MPG)  |  By David Dickstein, Gold River resident
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Gold River Discovery Center students and teachers get briefed on their upcoming adventure, which quickly goes haywire. Photo by David Dickstein

GOLD RIVER, CA (MPG) - If I were a ruggedly handsome TV news reporter instead of an OK-looking print journalist, at this very second I’d break into your guilty-pleasure viewing of ABC’s “The Bachelorette” with this special report:

"We intrude on Hannah’s fantasy suite date for breaking news you’ll only get from KGRM. A teacher and seven of her students have been ambushed and are being held hostage inside a terrorist organization’s compound in Southeast Asia. The imperiled group is from Gold River Discovery Center, which makes the children Miners and minors. Due to their age, we cannot share their names at this time. One rhymes with “Stylin’, which is kinda cool. The grown-up has been identified as sixth-grade teacher Kristen Hall. I’ve been told that moments after parents dropped their children off at the Nimbus Winery, Miss Hall thought it would be fun to take the students on a sightseeing trip through the Asian jungle. Not only is she a newlywed who, if she’s going to vacation in Asia, should do so with her husband, but we’re told she knew the chance of her students facing grave danger on this trip was 100 percent. All I can say is, what the @#%$!? Reporting live, this is David Dickstein."

18 minutes later...

"We interrupt Hannah’s breakdown over yet another bachelor not in it for the right reasons to bring you more exclusive details on that hostage situation 7,900 miles away. KGRM has learned that the captors belong to a terrorist group called The Fallen. They’re infamous for playing Hungry Hungry Hippos when bored, but not playing nice-nice. In fact, The Fallen abducts civilians several times daily except Mondays when the compound is closed. Hold on … yes? … right, got it. This just in… On the condition that he be kept anonymous, a witness named Jarick Collins, who lives in Rancho Cordova at 12401 Folsom Blvd., has told my producer that a band of camo-wearing soldiers took the teacher and children hostage on the belief they were threats to accomplishing their mission to overthrow the government. Which government that would be is a mystery because no one has told us where in Southeast Asia we are. Well, that’s the latest. Reporting live, this is David Dickstein.”

11 minutes later…

“We break in on Hannah’s two-on-one date with Luke and Jed to bring you the latest on that hostage situation. I've just been informed that the bad guys have given Miss Hall and her students an hour to live. That is, unless they manage to thwart the would-be assassins by using their collective wit, charm and rope-swinging skills to escape before it's too late. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them and their families, many who are expecting to pick up their kids within the hour. Live from New York, it’s Saturday night! Just kidding. Reporting live from a jungle somewhere, this is David Dickstein.”

1 hour later…

“Sadly, I bear two pieces of bad news. First and foremost, Hannah sent Luke home in tears after their hometown date. Something about loving him, but not being in love with him. In other news, the teacher and seven children are presumed dead. Bummer they couldn’t escape by the hour deadline. I’ve learned that only 33 percent of hostages safely flee in this situation, so failure was more likely than success. But in this reporter’s opinion, the Gold River eight should have done better considering the high API score of their school and the best teacher in the world showed up for moral support, not that I’m biased or anything toward Mrs. Dickstein. I’ve just been handed a note that says the escape attempt was compromised. For one thing, the signaling device around one kid’s neck didn’t work. Also, a locked door that was supposed to have opened after a code was cracked didn’t, causing a compound worker to make an embarrassing surprise appearance. Unfair as that is, the captured civilians were given clue after clue via closed-circuit TV and failed nonetheless. So, it’s a sad ending for the kids, the teacher and heartbroken Luke. Live from the tropical corner of unhappy and unhealthy, this is David Dick …. Wait! Wait! What's this? I see a woman who matches the description of Miss Hall coming out of a room along with one… two … three … four … five … six … seven children! They're all alive and well! It's a Miner miracle!"

Back to Reality

Well, I'm sure by now you've figured out three things: 1) I'd make one heckuva TV news reporter; 2) The lives of Miss Hall and those seven children were never in jeopardy; and 3) None of this took place in Southeast Asia under duress, but an escape room in town, and everyone had a super-fun time.

On a recent Sunday, I joined my wife, her teaching partner and seven GRDC students at Red Door Escape Room in Rancho Cordova. The adventure fulfilled Miss Hall’s silent auction commitment with generous families that successfully bid on the item at the school’s annual crab feed.

Promising to write a column on the experience, I charmed the community-spirited Red Door management into donating a private booking, a $231 value. What was supposed to be seven kids working as a team to creatively and logically think their way out of a series of rooms within an hour became a gloriously chaotic free for all. By day, Miss Hall and Mrs. Dickstein would never dream of doing the children's classwork for them, but put them in an escape room under the pressure of an unforgiving clock and it's all about "having the kids be successful."

I'd love to leave you with a happy ending – that these bright and enthusiastic children escaped the medium-level "Prison Break" room on their own. But I can’t. The kids were doomed from the start, requiring nearly 40 minutes to break out of the first of five rooms. And even that required the longer arms of a supportive adult to knock a key off a …. Oops! Better not ruin the fun if you take the “Prison Break” challenge. Good luck if you do. Escaping captivity is never easy, as seven awesome kids and two lovely Gold River teachers/former hostages can attest.

David Dickstein can be reached at