By Ingrid Sapona
Earlier this month one of my sisters attended an “active
shooter” seminar at her place of employment. She works at a university and
while her school hasn’t had an “active shooter” situation, U.S. campuses certainly
seem to be magnets for them.
I was caught by surprise when she casually mentioned attending,
then talked about the things she learned. Apparently the recommended procedure
is: run, hide, fight. I said I can understand the run and hide part, but the fight
idea reminded me of the nonsense Ben Carson said after the Umpqua Community
College shooting in early October. (For those who missed the story
, in the wake
of 11 dead and 7 injured, Carson said he thinks people should have rushed the
shooter – after all, “the shooter can only shoot one person at a time”.)
My sister went on to explain a bit more about the things
they learned. For example, when you’re running away, run with your hands up so
that law enforcement officers don’t shoot you. Jeesh, I thought. While I’m glad
she went to the seminar, I can’t believe the university felt there’s a need for
Perhaps sensing my disquiet, she mentioned that the run,
hide, fight mantra reminds her of stop, drop, roll. When I said I’d never heard
that trio, she explained that it’s it’s something they teach school kids if
their clothes catch fire. I guess that was after my time, as all we had were
We then “reminisced” about air raid drills from when we were
growing up. I vividly remember hearing the simulated siren sound over the PA
system and then all of us crawling under our desk and covering our heads with
our arms. She too remembered that, and the fact that the motion was referred to
as “duck and cover”.
Back then, I knew the air raid drills were meant to protect
us in case of a nuclear attack. But, I also remember doubting how ducking and
covering my head would offer much protection from the plume of a mushroom
cloud. Indeed, my most vivid recollection about those drills was the fear it
instilled in me about how dangerous the world must be.
After my sister and I got off the phone, I couldn’t help
feeling despair that everyday folks are being trained about what to do in an
active shooter situation. I wondered if soon elementary school kids in the U.S.
will start learning the run, hide, fight mantra. Wouldn’t surprise me, really. After
all, maybe such training isn’t really any more traumatizing than duck and cover
Though that thought may not be welcome, I find it comforting
in a way. I guess because looking at it that way gives me a bit of perspective.
It reminds me that people wanting to cause others harm is nothing new – just
the ways they can go about it change. Maybe learning mantras like “duck and
cover”, “stop, drop, roll”, or “run, hide, fight” is just a coping mechanism
that people use – a way of feeling empowered in the face of fear.
The conversation my sister and I had about the active
shooter training happened a couple weeks before the attack in Paris. In the days
that followed that event, I watched with admiration how people did their best
to take back their city and the café society they cherish. I’m sure many
Parisians have adopted their own coping mechanisms, perhaps they make a point
of noting the closest exit when they are in a restaurant, the Metro, and so on.
But, they clearly also realize that if they surrender their lifestyle,
And, as the city of Brussels went into near lock down in the
aftermath of the Paris attack, another coping mechanism surfaced: social media.
Apparently, as Belgian authorities were moving about, conducting raids and what
have you, some folks took to social media with news about what was going on in their
neighborhoods. The police then publicly asked people to stop commenting on what
was going on because such information could be used by the suspects.
Soon after the police request, on the hashtag people had
been using to report the police activities they were observing, people startedposting humorous pictures of cats
. According to the Associated Press, people
posted photos of cats in all kinds of situations, including holding their hands
up, posing as police snipers, and even blatantly ignoring police warnings to
stay away from windows. The next day, after completing 22 raids, the police acknowledged
the cooperation by posting a picture on social media of cat food with the
message: “For cats who helped us last night … Help Yourself!”
Though it certainly seems to me that the world is a scarier
place than it used to be, I realize there has always been – and there likely
always will be – things to fear. In this light, I guess active shooter training
is just a sign of the times.