Three Cheers for the Man in the Red Shirt

 

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 Guns, Islamist Terrorism
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  1. Byron Horatio Inactive
    Byron Horatio
    @ByronHoratio

    Nobody remembers the men who chose not to be heroes; who did the rational thing and saved their skin. There is no monument in the world to such a man.

    I have always found the “don’t be a hero” line disgraceful. Shouldn’t we regard that kind of selflessness as the loftiest goal?

    • #1
  2. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch
    @MikeRapkoch

    We should consider conscripting every man–not literally, but as civilian security–and make them duty bound to protect the innocent by sacrificing their lives to take down the killers. This is a man’s duty. Here’s an article from the American Conservative arguing for this.

    • #2
  3. Barry Jones Thatcher
    Barry Jones
    @BarryJones

    The “don’t be a hero” mantra works in ordinary crime situations as most criminals are NOT homicidal maniacs. However, in a mass shooting (the community college in Oregon) or in a terrorist attack, you ARE dealing with homicidal maniacs and running may mean you just die tired. Fighting back should not be the last option, but an action taken when needed (ie the French train event a few months ago).

    • #3
  4. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Barry Jones: However, in a mass shooting (the community college in Oregon) or in a terrorist attack, you ARE dealing with homicidal maniacs and running may mean you just die tired. Fighting back should not be the last option, but an action taken when needed (ie the French train event a few months ago).

    Well said, sir.

    • #4
  5. Judithann Campbell Member
    Judithann Campbell
    @

    God Bless the man in the red shirt, and all those like him. None of us can be 100 % certain of how we will act in a situation unless and until we have been in that situation: those who sacrifice themselves for others deserve all of our admiration, and we can only pray that we will do the same, if ever called upon.

    • #5
  6. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    As some blogger somewhere once said, “A pack, not a herd”.

    If you realize you MIGHT be a victim, you can act accordingly, be it carrying a gun or watching out for alternate exits (or better yet, both, and a flashlight as well).

    There’s a tendency amongst the armed citizenry to call ourselves “sheepdogs”, implying that we’re the ones who watch over the flock. I hate that term for any number of reasons, but chiefly because I am part of the flock: I am responsible to my loved ones. The sheepdog is responsible to the shepherd, who is responsible to the owner of the flock, and they have their interests at heart, which at best involves shearing, and at worst, mutton.

    And there’s only room for one shepherd in my life, and he doesn’t delegate to others, he’s a little more hands-on with his flock… ;)

    • #6
  7. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    Let me preface this by saying I am in no way minimizing the bravery or admirability of “the man in the red shirt” (“TMITRS”) and his compatriots.

    I do not know the specifics of the situation, but it appears possible that TMITRS was, due to his position outside the theater, in a significantly less dangerous position than the people inside the theater.  In a situation such as that, I believe many people would assess the risk and the moral imperative and come to a conclusion leading them to act in a way similar to TMITRS.

    Obviously, that calculus would change depending on the proximity of the terrorists to the door and whether or not there were bullets penetrating it.

    • #7
  8. Bob L Member
    Bob L
    @

    Johnny Dubya:Let me preface this by saying I am in no way minimizing the bravery or admirability of “the man in the red shirt” (“TMITRS”) and his compatriots.

    I do not know the specifics of the situation, but it appears possible that TMITRS was, due to his position outside the theater, in a significantly less dangerous position than the people inside the theater. In a situation such as that, I believe many people would assess the risk and the moral imperative and come to a conclusion leading them to act in a way similar to TMITRS.

    Obviously, that calculus would change depending on the proximity of the terrorists to the door and whether or not there were bullets penetrating it.

    Even so, the easiest and most sensible option would be to turn and run.  Red Shirt guy was under no obligation to assist others in escaping.  Perhaps his actions were the morally appropriate ones, but it doesn’t make them less courageous.

    • #8
  9. Ontheleftcoast Inactive
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Kevin Creighton:As some blogger somewhere once said, “A pack, not a herd”.

    If you realize you MIGHT be a victim, you can act accordingly, be it carrying a gun or watching out for alternate exits (or better yet, both, and a flashlight as well).

    There’s a tendency amongst the armed citizenry to call ourselves “sheepdogs”, implying that we’re the ones who watch over the flock. I hate that term for any number of reasons, but chiefly because I am part of the flock: I am responsible to my loved ones.

    The inane “sheepdog” rhetoric also suggests ignorance of sheepdogs. In sheep country with a lot of predators, there are often two types of dogs: the livestock guardians (breeds such a Komondor, Great Pyrenees, Maremma, etc.) which are raised among sheep from puppyhood, accept the flock as their pack and defend it from external threats… they often don’t do anything else, and are often too big to be very agile. Then there are the herding dogs that work the sheep: Border collies, Pulik, etc. They’re also raised with the sheep, and will defend the flock if necessary, but that’s not their main job. Their herding behaviors are in large part a repurposed prey drive. Some dogs are versatile and can do both: German Shepherds and the like.

    People calling themselves “sheepdogs” probably  have this in mind:

    GSD pic

    and not this:

    puli pic

    but basically, you’re right: Sheepdogs do the owner’s work. More like police officers.

    • #9
  10. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    Byron Horatio:I have always found the “don’t be a hero” line disgraceful.Shouldn’t we regard that kind of selflessness as the loftiest goal?

    The way I interpret it is “Don’t try to make yourself a hero.” One mark of a true hero is that he will always deny that he is a hero, or that he consciously acted in any way other than he felt he had to.

    If you think of yourself as a hero, or decide that you want to be one, you’re acting for the wrong reasons. And you’ll probably get yourself (or someone else) killed.

    • #10
  11. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    Bob L:

    Johnny Dubya:

    …the easiest and most sensible option would be to turn and run. Red Shirt guy was under no obligation to assist others in escaping. Perhaps his actions were the morally appropriate ones, but it doesn’t make them less courageous.

    I wouldn’t argue that the moral appropriateness of such actions makes them less courageous.

    For some, turning and running may be “the easiest and most sensible option”, but I believe that many – perhaps more than we might think – in TMITRS’s situation would find themselves unable to resist the impulse to help others to safety.  And the greater the perceived safety of the good Samaritan’s position, the greater is the likelihood that he will feel this impulse.

    Some feel this impulse despite maximum danger to themselves.  We frequently call these individuals “Medal of Honor recipients”.  The three “train heroes” are another example, though there may have been a self-preservation element to their actions (again, still courageous).

    Our perception of TMITRS’s courage primarily derives from his “assist[ing] others in escaping” while he was under “no obligation” to do so.  He was able to get away and assure his own safety at any time.  On the other hand, our perception of the train heroes’ courage derives from their putting themselves in mortal danger and thereby assuring the safety of others (as well as themselves).  The did not have the option to run away.

    Regardless, both TMITRS and the train heroes are equally admirable.

    • #11
  12. Bob L Member
    Bob L
    @

    Johnny Dubya:

    Bob L:

    Johnny Dubya:

    …the easiest and most sensible option would be to turn and run. Red Shirt guy was under no obligation to assist others in escaping. Perhaps his actions were the morally appropriate ones, but it doesn’t make them less courageous.

    I wouldn’t argue that the moral appropriateness of such actions makes them less courageous.

    For some, turning and running may be “the easiest and most sensible option”, but I believe that many – perhaps more than we might think – in TMITRS’s situation would find themselves unable to resist the impulse to help others to safety. And the greater the perceived safety of the good Samaritan’s position, the greater is the likelihood that he will feel this impulse.

    …………..Regardless, both TMITRS and the train heroes are equally admirable.

    I got it now.  What you initially said makes much more sense now.  Thanks.

    • #12
  13. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    A year or so ago I wrote about my brother, “that guy“.

    Most of my examples were  not terribly serious, but I am convinced in an emergency, he would be like the guy in red shirt. I will never forget the sight of him slogging up river on foot to find me when he had seen my hat float by.

    One of the things my brother, and my husband also, has impressed upon all of our boys is to be constantly on the look out for something that needs done. Anything from helping a sister put up/take down/load up a tent, to someone on a trail who is struggling, to someone on the side of the road in need, to checking on neighbors. Boys Scouts was a tremendous resource in this regard, the desire to do the right thing AND knowing what to do.

    It is our hope that should they ever find themselves in a true emergency, they will instinctively step up.

    • #13
  14. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    O, for Pete’s sake.  I always thought the sheepdog-sheep-wolf metaphor was a great, simple way to illustrate three kinds of people who act in three fundamentally-different ways, and to indicate that there is a type that is armed as a wolf — teeth and claws — but is a protector.

    That’s all the further one need look.

    (I was also delighted it appeared in American Sniper.)

    • #14
  15. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Owen Findy:O, for Pete’s sake. I always thought the sheepdog-sheep-wolf metaphor was a great, simple way to illustrate three kinds of people who act in three fundamentally-different ways, and to indicate that there is a type that is armed as a wolf — teeth and claws — but is a protector.

    That’s all the further one need look.

    (I was also delighted it appeared in American Sniper.)

    Yes, I always understood it as describing three states of mind. Rather than dividing the world into predators vs. prey, we can add a third category: guardians.

    • #15
  16. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Shortly before the attacks, I heard someone discuss this question. His take: We’re all mortal; we can only postpone death. So if you are going to die anyway, what better way to go than standing up for the principles you believe in and/or defending the lives of others?

    I’m guessing this idea is nothing new to many here (particularly those who serve in public safety and defense roles), but I’d never thought of it that way before.

    • #16
  17. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    Son of Spengler: We’re all mortal; we can only postpone death. So if you are going to die anyway, what better way to go than standing up for the principles you believe in and/or defending the lives of others?

    This is somewhat the assessment of the Brit who hid for a bit on the French train a few months ago, and then stood up to help because he preferred to die standing and fighting.

    • #17
  18. Postmodern Hoplite Coolidge
    Postmodern Hoplite
    @PostmodernHoplite

    The implied question posed in Lind’s American Conservative article is whether or not we as a people  (or perhaps, “We, the People,”) have the national character and will to re-constitute the “militia” as it existed from 1620 to 1775? If we consider the centuries of English cultural history preceding it, America has a far stronger foundation in the militia than we have in recent experience relying upon a standing army of Regulars. I suggest it is time for Americans to have this conversation.

    • #18
  19. Ontheleftcoast Inactive
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Owen Findy:

    Son of Spengler: We’re all mortal; we can only postpone death. So if you are going to die anyway, what better way to go than standing up for the principles you believe in and/or defending the lives of others?

    This is somewhat the assessment of the Brit who hid for a bit on the French train a few months ago, and then stood up to help because he preferred to die standing and fighting.

    In the immortal words of SgtMaj Dan Daly (recipient of two Medals of Honor) as he led a charge against the Germans: “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”

    • #19
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