Last Tuesday evening, a few hours after news broke of the horrific Uvalde massacre, I attended an active shooter training session at our synagogue. Conducted by members of our local police department, the training had been planned for months, ever since the synagogue hostage crisis in Colleyville, Texas, back in January.
We learned about ALICE, an acronym for five steps to remember if a shooter enters the building:
- Alert others as soon as you are aware of a threat.
- Lockdown if evacuation is not a safe option.
- Inform authorities and others with real time information about what’s happening.
- Counter the shooter any way possible, via distraction or direct attack.
- Evacuate as soon as possible, as safely and quickly as possible.
We learned that a person can bleed out in three minutes. We learned to look for where the bullet exits the body rather than where it enters, because more damage is done as it passes through. We learned how to apply a makeshift tourniquet and pack a wound while waiting for emergency services to arrive. We also toured our building and learned about panic buttons and safe rooms.
It was hard and surreal, and I had to force myself to stay. I was grateful that our synagogue already has invested a lot of time and thought and resources into safeguarding the building. I left with a heavy heart.
At some point, we will gather again to do an active shooter drill. For some of my fellow congregants, none of this is new, because they work in schools or private companies or medical facilities that have undergone similar training. Children endure these drills routinely at their schools. The children and teachers at Robb Elementary had a lot of training, and at least a few in the targeted classrooms were able to hide and evade the madman and live. But there are no guarantees that any of this will work if, God forbid, a shooter ever came to our synagogue.
This is life in America in 2022.
Once again, I find myself wondering what I can do to stop these destructive forces in our society. Over the weekend, I realized I was framing the question the wrong way. The issues are so huge, they are paralyzing. Yet, to give up, because it’s “impossible” or “out of my control” is not the answer; neither is freezing in place out of a sense of helplessness or powerlessness. To do so only yields control of outcomes and becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Rather, I realized, I can focus on one small action, every day, to push back and help our nation shift course. When tackling any huge problem, I’ve found that taking small steps lead to bigger steps, and each step leads to greater clarity about the next. On Sunday I donated to the Texas Tribune, a non-profit group of journalists who have done outstanding truth-telling about the tragedy in Uvalde and its aftermath. On Monday, I wrote this blog post. I will join a gun safety protest rally, again. And so on. I no longer feel like I’m sitting on my hands. And if my efforts are coordinated with others, the pressure multiplies.
So I hope this gives you some ideas, Dear Reader. And I hope and pray that none of us ever needs to put active shooter training to the test.
Image: Biel Morro