Thoughts on the Sandy Hook Tragedy from a Cop, Father and Husband of a Teacher
Thoughts on the Sandy Hook Tragedy from a Cop, Father and Husband of a Teacher
I’ve enjoyed a bit of anonymity here at ITS Tactical over the last few years. Bryan and the ITS staff have been very supportive of my request to keep a lot of my personal information private. Those who know me, see that I use a pseudonym on Facebook and other social media sites. Those in Law Enforcement or other sensitive fields do this to keep their families safe.
Today I’m going to step way outside of my comfort zone, as the murders that took place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School have hit me and my family very hard.
Just an Average Family
We are your typical middle class American family who happens to fall right in the center of the Sandy Hook shooting in several ways. I work as a Sherrif’s Deputy, my wife is a teacher who grew up thirty minutes from Newtown Connecticut and we have three school age children (one of which is in first grade and the same age as most of the children murdered). Two of our children attend the same school where my wife teaches and we are active in the school and church.
This incident has hit us like a ton of bricks. Our family represents the first responder, the teacher who was unwillingly thrown into a terrifying situation and the parents who couldn’t imagine anything like this happening to our children. We have been watching the news and talking about this event to the point of mental exhaustion. We have no answers for the madness that happened, just questions.
It’s made me and my wife angry, it’s made us scared and it’s taken away another slice of a normal life that we are trying to live. It seems like every day an event takes place that rips away another piece of a simple childhood that we are trying so hard to give our children. Yet another incident which our parents didn’t have to worry about when they were raising us. Another event that weighs on my shoulders as a parent.
The days of a childhood like my own are slowly being taken away by madmen. Be it by sociopaths or terrorists, the reality is our children have been stripped of the “simple times.” Our country and the world is changing. It’s our jobs as parents to shield them so they can just be kids, but it is getting harder every day.
I’ll say it right now; I’m already jaded in life. Having been in a mix of the Army and Law Enforcement for 17 years, I’m at the point where nothing much rattles me. I’ve witnessed first hand the brutality that we can bestow on each other. I’ve built up walls and ways of coping, as those in a maddening line of work do. I recognize this and I try my hardest to deal with it. Its not easy but it’s what we do.
I feel that it’s my duty to keep my family away from those things in life that no one should have to see or experience. My wife doesn’t ask about the crazy calls I’ve been on and I don’t share the gruesome details. Right or wrong, it works for us. I try very hard to let my kids be kids and to let my family be a family.
Thank God my wife isn’t jaded. By all accounts she is just like those teachers at Sandy Hook. She had the calling for educating our youth and she enjoys working with children. She has a passion for her students and puts a lot of personal time into her class. The pay isn’t great, but it’s not about the pay or the monetary benefits. It’s about making a difference in life and doing something that affects others in a positive way. It’s about being an American and ensuring its children have every opportunity to be successful in life.
My wife and I have been together for thirteen years and she has been teaching for twelve. She enjoys the simple things in life and leaves the thoughts of violence in our society to me. I’m the Army “vet” and “cop” whose job it is to deal with evil. Until recently she didn’t put a lot of thought into school shootings, even though she has to listen to me get on my soapbox about “terrorists taking over a school” (more on this later).
Sure they do lockdown drills at her school and being married to a “cop” puts her sense of safety at a higher level, but overall I will go out on a limb and say most teachers and educators put thoughts of active shooters in the back of their minds. They just don’t want to think about it because its just not part of their everyday life.
A good example of this is when I took a class in 2008 on school safety which talked extensively about the Beslan School Massacre and Virginia Tech shooting. The book “Terror At Beslan: A Russian Tragedy With Lessons For America’s Schools” was given out at the end of the course. Update: It’s been brought to our attention that there’s controversy surrounding the legitimacy of the credentials that the author of Terror at Beslan presents in his book.
I came home and talked to my wife about the class, about terrorism and about her thoughts on school shootings. After I completed the book I asked her to read it. She said she didn’t want to, as I gave her enough details and she couldn’t stomach reading about it. She didn’t want to know the details about children being tortured and read about how barbaric we can be to each other.
Well that all changed Friday.
Talking About Evil
My wife and I have been talking about Sandy Hook non-stop since Friday and we have been glued to the news. We have been discussing my wife’s school’s lockdown drills and talking tactics. We have been discussing what the school may do now that this happened, how the parents are going to react, the questions her students might have.
But where do we go from here? What are we going to change to keep this from happening again? Are we as a nation going to change “gun control,” mental health care, “violent” video games and school safety? Are we prepared as a nation to have a system like Israel? Does each community stand up and take care of their own by putting “armed” guards at their schools? Will our laws change? There are so many issues that relate to this type of incident that it will boggle your mind; there are no simple answers.
What can you do as a parent to try to keep your children safe at school? What do you tell them and how much do you tell them? My wife and I have been having this same conversation. I think every parent in the nation has been thinking about this. What do you tell your six year old about a full on adult topic? This is the tough part of being a parent and it puts you in the hot seat.
It pulls at every emotion and in our case will leave you struggling for answers. I don’t want my family to be jaded; I don’t want my young children to be scared to go to school. I dont want them yelling “stranger danger” at every unknown person they see. I don’t want my wife to struggle with how she would deal with a situation like this. But the reality is, this and other murderers have forced us to take action. You cannot burry your head in the sand, you owe it to your family to do something about it.
I think at this point the only sure fire thing you can do is talk about it among adults. If you think the government or your school district (or anyone for that matter) is going to solve this problem anytime soon, you’re dreaming. Put pure evil on the table, look it in the eye and talk about it. Figure out how you are going to talk about it to your children. If you can’t do it you are doomed to be a victim and your children will pay for it if evil arrives to do them harm.
Our Plan of Action
I won’t BS you and say we have a plan figured out ourselves. There are so many aspects of this situation that it’s going to take time to dissect them. We haven’t figured out what to say to our kids and who knows what their fellow students are going to say about it this week. My wife hasn’t figured out how to answer student’s possible questions. Like 9-11, how do you explain pure evil to children?
As a Deputy, I have training in active shooter response, I’ve mentally rehearsed going to a school shooting and have equipped myself outside what the agency issues to be able to respond. I have made up my mind that I will go into a situation like this by myself without waiting for backup if needed. This is my calling and I signed up on the dotted line, but my wife is a different story.
As a teacher and parent, my wife is struggling with the reality of what happened at Sandy Hook. She has a unique “issue” since both of our children attend her school in separate grades. If an active shooter happens at her school how can she protect her class, while knowing that our children are in other classrooms? She not only has to think about her own students, but our children as well. She trusts the other teachers to protect our children, but it’s a tough situation to think about. Unlike 2008, she’s at least talking about it now. I’m very proud of her for stepping up.
My wife and other teachers around the country, have been pushed into a first responder roll. Whether they like it or not, this is reality. My wife wasn’t in the military and didn’t sign up to be a cop or firefighter and she hasn’t had the training needed to deal with an active shooter outside the lockdown drills. But like Lt. Col. Grossman talks about in his books and classes, mental rehearsing is a key step in a plan of action. I feel a great first step is to talk about a plan and mentally rehearse it.
If you are a teacher you are limited on what you can control. In talking to my wife about her situation the only real thing she has control of is her classroom. Yes, teachers can help shape policy and procedures, suggest ways to help secure the school and offer support to the principle, but it really boils down to controlling the classroom.
This is where as a teacher you are going to have to mentally rehearse being in a horrifying situation. I think the days of simply going through the motions during lockdown drills are over and you owe it to your students to think ahead. How do you control your students while gunshots are being heard outside? How can you further fortify your room and protect the students from gunfire? What actions are you going to take if a gunman is attempting entry into your room? Do you have what it takes to confront evil when it steps into your classroom?
Just like Law Enforcement, you have to confront your fears and mentally rehearse these things. Seek some training outside your comfort zone. You’ve been thrown into the first responder roll whether you like it or not, how are your going to prepare yourself for it?
If you are in Law Enforcement, you owe it to yourself and our children to get the equipment and training to deal with active shooters. Think about the equipment you have. Do you have enough ammunition for your weapons systems? Do you have a plate carrier and ballistic helmet?
Do you have breaching tools in your trunk? The Virginia Tech shooter used chains and locks on the doors to slow Law Enforcement response. The Amish School killer also secured the schoolhouse doors from the inside.
Think outside the box and mentally rehearse things like using your vehicle to breach doors or gates. Talk to your squad mates about these things. I know my team is sick of hearing about my theories on terrorists attacking schools, but at least they are thinking about it and its out there.
Think about the training you get, do you train for multiple well armed and trained attackers? As we saw in Mumbai, the terrorist were able to overwhelm responders by creating chaos in different locations. Even if your agency doesn’t train on it, at least keep it in your mind and think about how you would respond.
Remember that by the time you show up it will most likely be over. You will have to walk over the dead and see things no civilized human should. This is part of the burden we carry and perhaps it will bring on guilt. Mentally rehearse this and when its over seek help.
Use social networking to your advantage. Follow people and training companies who are relevant to active shooting situations. There are several groups on Linkedin such as “Active Shooter Intervention,” which discuss these topics. Network with other officers and talk about their SOP’s and GO’s.
Hug your children and hold them tight. You are the proverbial “mamma bear” and you owe your children protection from the evils in the world. How you go about doing this is up to you. I dont have all the answers, but we all have the ability to take steps to protect our children. Talk to your spouse, family, and friends. Think of ways to get the skill sets to help you and your family be safe in the world.
Weapons in School?
This is a hot topic for sure. Statistics are starting to show that a homicide/suicide event is planned to be over before law enforcement arrives. Most of these cowards are taking their own life rather than confronting police. Statistics also show that these events can be stopped by armed citizens or off-duty Police Officers.
One thing I’m going to do is familiarize my wife with a few common weapons systems like the Glock, AR-15, shotgun and AK-47. While we all wait for the government to post armed guards, issue teachers concealed carry permits and change the laws for carrying weapons on school grounds (are you laughing yet?) I’m going to teach my wife about “battlefield pick-ups.” This involves the “possibility” of a shooter dropping a weapon due to jamming (or another reason) and my wife having the option of picking it up. This is a big burden and one which my wife is honestly scared to death of, but at least it may be an option. One more tool for the tool box.
I’m asking my wife to do something totally outside her normal thinking and comfort zone. This is also way outside her job description and she is actually really pissed that it has come to this. I don’t blame her at all.
Speaking of weapons in school and church. If you are a parent do you “carry” regardless of the state or local laws? This is something you are going to have to decide on your own. James Yeager makes some good points in this video (NSFW for language). If you are in a “gun free zone” you should be on high alert.
More To Come?
We all know this isn’t the end of this type of violence. We are in a new era of madness where children are targets. My personal fear is a terrorist attack like Beslan, which we are woefully unprepared for. If you think this isn’t a possibility, you have your head buried in the sand. It would only take a coordinated attack of a few schools throughout the country to cripple us as a nation.
You should familiarize yourself with past events and have a basic understanding of how they were conducted. Study the Beslan School Siege and watch some of the videos found overseas where the terrorists are training to take over schools. Why does the intel point toward elementary schools as opposed to high schools? You should have an understanding of your potential enemy. Talk about this stuff with your family and friends. Get people thinking about it.
As I was writing this another teen was arrested in Oklahoma for plotting a school shooting. This guy in Indiana was arrested recently for making threats to an elementary school, it seems like it’s never ending!
Remember Sandy Hook Elementary and the young souls lost. Look at their photos online, it will make you sick to your stomach. It should piss you off and make you say to yourself “never on my watch”!
While the politicians and school administrators try to figure out how to deal with this complex topic, mentally rehearse and carry your gun; you may be the only one between evil and innocence.