What we can learn from the Connecticut Shooting

I write this with a heavy heart, but hardened resolve. I’m sure you heard about the tragedy in Connecticut on Friday. I can’t help but wonder about what all those victims were thinking moments before it happened: what they were getting for Christmas, the holiday break, seeing family and relatives. All that was shattered when a young man, heavily armed and wearing black fatigues, walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and took the lives of 20 children and 6 adults. As the coverage unfolds, we will find out more about this disturbed individual.

And in the coming weeks we as a nation will be trying to make sense of this tragedy. Blame will be passed around. People will be looking for things to point at and say “this is the problem”, or “we should do this to prevent this from ever happening again.” But before we enter into these discussions, we need to reflect on the incident itself and the reminders it gives us.

Life Isn’t Always Fair

First is that life is uncertain and frequently unfair. We often reassure ourselves that as long as we are good people, good things will happen to us. And if something bad happens, then there has to be some reason for it. Even though concepts like fairness and karma sound good and provide comfort, the harsh reality is that sometimes terrible things happen to good people – innocent people. This is often the hardest reality to accept. In truth, the only thing we have control over are the choices we make when faced with the chaos that life sometimes presents us.

We Are Capable of Great Good and Evil

It also reminds us that although we as human beings are capable of great good, we are also capable of great evil. We as a society in whole are safer today than we have ever been in history. However our capacity for evil has not changed. And the darker sides of our nature can appear anywhere and anytime – even in an elementary school in a small town on a Friday.

Who is Ultimately Responsible

We are also reminded that we are ultimately responsible for our own safety and protection. Although we our a nation of laws, laws alone cannot protect us. And while we appreciate the job our police officers do, we can’t expect them to always be there to protect us. This leaves us to take responsibility for protecting ourselves and those around us from the capacity of others to do harm. I think about the analogy Shihan Woodard often used; sheep, wolves and sheep dogs. Sheep are the unaware or, put differently, those that are incapable of protecting themselves. Wolves are the predators. Sheep dogs are those who stand in the way between the sheep and the wolves. It’s up to each of us to decide where we fit in the equation.

Why We Train

It’s also a reminder why we train – why what we do is important: we are the sheep dogs. When we hone our skills in our art and improve our ability to protect life, we also take on the responsibility to use our skills to protect ourselves and the life of those around us. I can’t say with certainty there was anything you or I could have done to prevent or stop what happened at that school, but I’d like to believe if we were there we would have made the difficult decision – the choice – to put our lives on the line to alter the course of events. I’m sure some of the people at that school made that difficult choice. And if their choice gave one person – one child – an additional moment of life or a better chance of survival, then their choice wasn’t made in vain.

I bring these things up not to make you afraid, paranoid, or to criticize what was or wasn’t done that day. Rather, I want to make us more aware. Statistically, it’s unlikely we will ever face such a horrific situation as those individuals and children did that day. But we must remain aware that such things are possible, and by being aware we can decide to deal with it or do something about it. Again, this is why we train – to prepare for events that will hopefully never occur. We need to remind ourselves of the importance of this – to harden our resolve to be vigilant and that we will do everything in our ability to protect the sheep from the wolves.

In light of this, we will be concentrating on firearms in our training for the next few weeks. My goal is to help us all become more proficient at dealing with “active shooters” so that if ever faced with a situation like what happened in Connecticut, we can have the courage to confront it, and the ability to change the course of events.

Until then, take the time to let those you love know how important they are in your life. The most important reminder of all is that life is precious, and we are lucky to have those around us in our life.

Our hearts go out to every child and family that was impacted by this horrific tragedy. Please feel free to share your thoughts on the Connecticut Shooting in the comments below.

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