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Before you do anything else, read Kevin Creighton’s post about the personal lessons one should take from the Paris Attacks; Kevin knows what he’s talking about and please defer to his expertise should anything I say conflict with it. That said, people are often warned not to “try to be a hero” in a terrorist attack or shooting spree. There is some wisdom in this, depending on precisely what one has in mind by “hero.” As Kevin says, one’s first duty isn’t to engage the killer, but to remove oneself — and those under one’s protection — from danger as quickly and safely as possible, though “further action is up to you and the circumstances you’re in.” In other words, focus on saving lives and don’t be an idiot. Sometimes, as we saw on the French train earlier this year, that means stopping the killer directly, though not everyone will be in a position to do so.
Though we’re still in the early days of this — which means that some stories may not entirely check out — it appears some people, having removed themselves from imminent danger, made the evaluation Kevin suggests and decided to return to save others. Via the New York Times, here’s an amazing account both of what happened in the Bataclan theater:
[Starting at about 1’40”] At the emergency exit, I see hundreds of people… Sorry, not hundreds, I don’t know what i’m saying … lots of people stacked on the ground in a jumble. So there was no way to get out, it was jammed with people. I get my hand outside, but not my body, and I could still hear them shooting behind me.
Then I see a guy, and all I remember is his red shirt, that’s all I remember. He grabbed me by the arms, yanked me with all his force, and he pulled me out. I know he saved several more. Three or four others were there too, dragging people out of the Bataclan. They started yelling, “Run! Run! Run!” So I ran as far as I could and hid in a building several blocks away.
Ordinary people — even if they’re armed — cannot always stop a determined killer, but they often can save others and/or impede the killers’ progress. Those who do so deserve our highest admiration.
Let us all hope that — should we be called to — we can be both be brave and clear-headed under such circumstances, just like the man in the red shirt.Published in