Last week I sat to write my weekly blog several times, but I couldn’t. The faces of the parents of the Stoneman Douglas High School children–clenching their cellphones next to their hearts, waiting for a text or a call to answer the question, “Is my child dead or alive?”, left me without words.
Two weeks have passed. All the victims were laid to rest, the Broward County Sheriff’s office can’t shield its coward negligence and alleged corruption inside its department, and the surviving students fight to keep the conversation about background checks and gun control trending.
But more than anything, I can’t imagine the ire that the grieving parents must feel after they read in the news that the perpetrator who murdered their children was on the police and FBI radar. That the Florida Department of Children and Families was providing him with mental health therapy. And the Broward County Public School system knew about his violent and erratic behavior since his pre-adolescence.
For almost ten years, the police visited the home of the psychopath more than 30 times following the calls of his adoptive mother and neighbors caused by his explosive confrontations. Moreover, the murderer himself called 911–two days after his mother died in November of last year–to say that he was depressed and couldn’t account for his future actions.
I understand and respect the constitutional right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms. But, because mentally ill people in the United States grow like weeds by a river and that no law on the books can confiscate guns from people who show clear signs of becoming a danger to others, I can’t help but wonder, how can I protect myself and my family?
The night of the mass killing, my first impulse was to get a concealed weapons permit, but then I imagined my son finding a pistol in my purse while he looked for a piece of gum.
Then, I searched for self-defense classes around my neighborhood and spent the rest of the night reading about survival techniques in active shooting and terrorist attacks scenarios.
When my husband found me all wound up, he ordered me a copy of the book “Sheep no more” by Jonathan T. Gilliam, a former US Navy SEAL and Special Agent of the FBI.
What I understood from the book was an action plan to put yourself in the shoes of an attacker, so you can identify your weaknesses, decipher his attack plan, and hence strengthen your defenses. In other words, you must be prepared to act instead of reacting.
According to Gilliam, every time he analyzes the footage of active shooter situations and mass murders, victims react like scared sheep, running in the same direction herded by fear. This is terrorism’s most powerful and lethal weapon.
Nonetheless, he also assures that any civilian, without any military or intelligence training, can execute simple tactical actions by identifying the emergency exits at any public facility, researching any new place you visit, or by simply remaining alert of our surroundings instead of keeping our heads buried in our smartphones like ostriches.
New legislation and mental health policies might take years to be sanctioned. In the meantime, I started training to become a black sheep, to go against the herd and face fear.
Thanks for reading and sharing.
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