Other heroes certainly revealed themselves that day, although they may never be specifically named. College students who slammed a classroom door shut and held it with their feet as they kept their body away from the door while the bullets came through it--they are heroes. Police officers who responded, grabbed weapons and rushed toward the sounds of shots, hoping that the killer would see them and shoot toward them rather than at innocent college students--they are heroes. Emergency medical technicians and paramedics who responded to deliver treatment to those shot and otherwise injured--they are heroes.
We need to remember and honor these heroes, but we owe it to them to also learn from this experience. Prior to 1966, there were no SWAT teams in the United States. Charles Whitman taught us the need when he shot and killed 15 people from the Texas Tower in Austin. Prior to 1999, there was no such thing as Active Shooter training, but Harris and Klebold taught us the need when they killed 12 and wounded 23 others at Columbine High School. Prior to the terrorist siege at Beslan, Russia in 2004, we never had to recognize the threat that might be presented to our youngest children by religious fanatics or zealots.
In 2007 we mourn the loss of 32 people at Virginia Tech. I refuse to mourn the loss of Seung-Hui. He lost the chance for my compassion when he took up arms and went hunting innocent people. From this event, we must learn. What must we learn?
- We must learn that politics has no place in the decision-making process about how we protect our most precious assets: our children.
- We must learn that our current Active Shooter response tactics and protocols are not the end-all be-all answer to every school shooting.
- We must learn that unexpected things happen, and as we train our officers and develop our policies the unexpected has to be taken into consideration, and leeway for improvised actions built in.
- We must learn to train our officers to be even more aggressive in their response to such situations and to reward them, rather than second-guess them, when they DO improvise in the face of adversity.
- We must learn that rules, regulations and signs do NOT prevent criminals from breaking the law and presenting a threat. No magic ring of safety exists around educational institutions. ARMED safety is the ONLY safety everywhere in America.
- We must learn how to move forward in a positive light while mourning the loss of 32 souls who may well have had among them future leaders, great artists, wonderful writers or terrific parents.
We cannot let the loss of these innocents become nothing more than a black mark in the book of time. We owe it to them and all who follow them into our educational institutions to use this experience to learn and develop PROactively, because if we don't, how will we ever live with ourselves when such a thing happens again?