What Would You Do?

This footage is not graphic. It is probably disturbing to people who do not understand this type of violence or prefer to pretend such things never happen. I think it offers a chance for some reflection on our state of mind and how we might react to such an occurrence. Take a moment and watch.

There were people within a few feet of the gunman when he began shooting. I know nothing of the stories of the people in the video. The gentleman nearby pulls a woman behind the cart kiosk (I think that is what it is called). Some of the people sitting in the chairs opposite the gunman can be seen trying to cover.

The question I want to pose to you is, if that was you, within a few feet of the gunman – what would you have done?

In asking this question to people, I have found that the majority of people seem to think they would respond in some heroic way. Some of the people I spoke with referred back to the train attack in Thalys, France on August 21, 2015, where the attacker was disarmed ( he was armed with a rifle that jammed, a 9mm pistol and a box-cutter), and then was beaten senseless with his own weapon. When offered the example of Fort Lauderdale or the terrorist attack at an Orlando nightclub where the bystanders did nothing, the counterargument was the same, not if I had been there.

Here is the problem; a person untrained and untested might believe that they would jump in and stop such an attack, but they have nothing factual to base this idea on. Take a look at the video again. Look at the reaction of the people who saw what happened. The startled jump from the gunfire, the confusion, the uncertainty. It strikes deep. On watching again, notice the simple act of taking cover is beyond the skill sets of the bystanders. One person tries to hide behind a cart that offers neither cover nor concealment. I am not criticizing her reaction, just making an observation. But it speaks volumes to the level of reaction that most people would have.

She had not planned for this and had no idea what to do. This is a simple statement of fact. How sure are you that you would react differently? A Combat Vet has a solid grasp on how they would react, a Police Officer has that grasp. Do you? Or do you have what most people have; an idea of what you hope you would do?

The Paris train attack that was thwarted. Well, those were soldiers. They had training and experience that allowed them to simply do what needed to be done. Even people who train in martial arts or RBSD (Reality Based Self-Defense) might not react the way they would like to think they would, but they do have two things in their favor. First, they have training. Call the training simulated violence if you must, but some training is better than no training, and training in real violence carries the risk of serious injury and/or death, and as such should be avoided as a matter of practicality (that is why there is the whole don’t try this at home thing). Second, they have a basic plan of what to do. When you have no plan at all, you are stuck. But if you have even the most basic plan, at least the survival centers of the brain have a starting point from which to begin taking action. You do not want your freeze response to last the rest of your life.

At the very least, develop a plan for the different places you frequent. Know where the exits are, where to find cover or concealment, and even makeshift weapons. Your survival centers need a point of departure before they will do anything useful. And keep in mind that you have to have an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses before any of your plans will mean anything.

Let me know what you think.