A little over a month ago 20 children were gunned down in an elementary school. Because I have a son, everyone I knew thought I should have an opinion. Most of my mom friends on facebook couldn’t imagine what those parents were going through, couldn’t help thinking about how they would respond if it were their children… how horrible it would be. I didn’t think about it. That is, until I saw an interview on CBS of a couple of the office staff from Newtown. Since then, I can’t seem to stop thinking about it.
I know it is not fair to judge people who are victims, and I am in no way intending to blame people who have been victims of a horrific crime. I also know that no one knows how they will react to a traumatic situation until they are in it, and I do not know if I would respond better than the adults in this situation did. I do not want to know if I would.
That being said, these women described how the gunman stopped outside their door before moving on to shoot more people. He didn’t come in, and they ended up hiding in a closet for four hours. If there had been a single child with them, then I could understand this. There was not. I have a problem with this. I know it is not fair. I am sure I have no right to any opinion on the subject at all, but not making it home from first grade is more unfair.
We have this culture that believes that if someone shows up with a gun and threatens you, you are supposed to just ride it out. That makes sense if they are after your money. It doesn’t make sense to fight a gunman to the floor and get killed over a few hundred dollars. But what do you do when a crazy guy shows up and just wants to kill people? What if those people are children who cannot defend themselves? If the only adults who aren’t protecting a room full of children are dead or hiding, what chance do the kids have?
Let me put it this way: if I put my child in a school, and you are an adult that works at that school, and a lunatic shows up who wants to hurt my child, I don’t care if your job is janitor, you have an obligation to protect my child. If you are not personally helping children hide or get to safety, then your job is doing everything in your power to neutralize the threat. Find the taser, the pepper spray, the baseball bat, remember that tackle you learned back in high school… figure something out.
We do not need armed guards in our school. We need adults with enough sense to not hide when the lives of children are on the line, and we need to hear about the success stories. We need to hear about the professor that saved his students at Virginia Tech. We need to hear about the teachers and administrators that have on hundreds of occasions talked students down from violence, prevented suicides, or helped their students to survive terrible situations. Those stories are not as interesting to the media as a body count, as bloody details, and weeping women who hid in a closet. We can’t know about the many teens that were not shot last year, that might have died if not for the person who stood up to the gun-wielding lunatic.
Any one of the Newtown parents would have gone to great lengths to protect their children. Aren’t we assuming that the staff of their school will go just as far in such a circumstance? We assume that our kids are just as safe at school as they are at home.
It really isn’t about the guns, and more legislation will not stop a crazy kid who steals the gun from his law-abiding parent.
It is about ethics. If you are in a crisis, there may come a time when you are the person who could alter the outcome for the better. There may come a time when you are obligated to act, and inaction will be just as much of a choice and carry just as much weight.
You heard the gunshots, you know there is a gunman outside your door, you know he is moving on down the hall, toward the children. You don’t know if there are more gunman, you do not know how dangerous it is out there. If you walk out that door and try to approach that gunman, it could be the last moment of your life, and you might die completely in vain. But there is the possibility that you surprise him, knock him out of his delusion for long enough to get him to reconsider his actions, or are able to wrestle him to the ground and stop him from going any further. If you do nothing, other people are going to die, and some of those people are children.
It is not about being heroic, or brave, it is simply about the inescapable logic that you might be the only person who can do something. If you are that person and choose inaction, you will be the one person who asks everyday for the rest of your life “could I have made a difference?”