Monday, April 11, 2011

A History Lesson to Save Your Life

A collective gasp and shaking of heads occurs every time we learn of a shooting that occurs on a school or university. The venues changes, but the outcome is nearly always the same... Student, armed, walks onto the school or campus and shoots other students and teachers. People die, then the shooter usually kills himself. Later we find that the shooter had mental illness—sometimes overt, sometimes not. The killings mostly seem random, but always are senseless.

Four years ago this very week, a student shot and killed 32 people before shooting himself at Virginia Tech. From the grief and horror of this terrible act, some good did come out of it. For one, the awareness of dealing with those with severe mental illnesses has been greatly heightened. Schools are now actively engaged in their student populations to gain more information, earlier, when things are going south with one of their own. Also, the way in which we prepare people for such incidents has changed as well. When once we trained to, “hide and shelter,” we now know that sometimes you just can’t wait.

After Columbine and now Virginia Tech, police have learned that it is often best to run away from trouble, as quickly as possible. Barricading can work to protect a person, but only if that barricade is sturdy enough to keep out an intruder and does involve using a person to hold it in place. Through the heroics of one professor at Virginia Tech, Liviu Librescu, who held the door’s barricade, some student managed to escape, while he was shot fatally through the door.

We have learned now that first thing is to run. We know that if have no where to run, but we can lock the door, we can deny entry and avoid deadly fire. However, we now also know that we lose options one and two, that the only hope to survival is to fight back.

A group called “ACT, or Attack Countermeasures Training,” among others, are now offering classes in how to launch an attack on an armed person. These groups teach you how to barricade and how to set up attack groups. You learn how you can use strength in numbers to overcome a person with a gun and ultimately change the situation. See a sample video at

On some level it is downright frightening to think that you need to learn how to do this, but history teaches us we have no choice. When it comes to a situation of an unstable person and a gun and you act passively, you will likely die.

So, listen to history and the cries of those who fell before us. Learn and live.

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